1 05 307
HOUSE I3NT BALI
* 1944, 1945, 1946, by Colin McPhee. AJJ rights
reverted: This boolc, or parts thereof, must not be repro-
duced in any form without permission.
This book is published on the same day in the Dominion
of Canada by Longmans, Green & Company, Toronto
Published by ASIA PRESS in association with
THE JOHN DAY COMPANY
Manufactured in the United States of America
The Port 1
Den Pasar 7
The House in Kedaton 1 5
The MasJcs 27
A Shadowplay 29
The Design in the Music 36
The Gods Descend 45
Portrait of a Prince 51
Farewell Feast 71
The House in the Hills 77
The Temple of the Dead 101
Primeval Symphony 105
The Regent 118
Ida Bagus Cede Expels the Demons 138
The Story of Sampih Continued 1 52
Lapse of Time 165
The Cricket-Fight 183
The Cremation in Saba 186
A Second Departure 193
Two Years Later 198
The Gamelan of Semara 203
The Guru 208
The Children's Music Association 212
The Lights in the Valley 220
THE ship had sailed from Surabaya for Bali in the late after-
The boy stumbled down the stairs with my bags to the cabins
that ran along either side of the dark saloon, and carried them to
the stateroom that lay directly over the propeller. I opened the
door to find a portly Chinese merchant very much at home in
the lower berth. He had removed the top to his white silk paja-
mas, and he lay there, relaxed as a reclining Buddha, smoking a
pipe of opium in great tranquillity. On the upper berth he had
neatly arranged his considerable luggage, which included a cage
containing a restless starling. The porthole was clamped down
so that no breath of air might trouble this cosy paradise. I had
not the heart to disturb him, and after the boy had set down my
bags I closed the door and went upstairs.
I spent the night on deck, leaning over the rail and looking
into the darkness for some thin beam of light to signal the
presence of land. The ship made a gentle commotion in the
water, churning it into foam that dissolved with a faint hiss. The
engines moaned in their sleep, and from time to time some inner
vibration of the ship caused the little coffee cups, left on the
tables by the deck boy, to ring softly in their saucers.
Even if I had had the cabin to myself I could not have slept,
for I was filled with an inner excitement that kept me wide
awake. I had come all this way on a quest of music- to listen to
the gainelans, the strange and lovely-sounding orchestras of gongs
that still made music, it seemed, in the courts of Java and the
villages and temples of Bali, and as I looked out into the night
I could hardly believe that this musical adventure was actually
about to begin.
I was a young composer, recently back in New York after
student days in Paris, and the past two years had been filled with
composing and the business of getting performances. It was
quite by accident that I had heard the few gramophone records
that were to change my life completely, bringing me out here in
search of something quite indefinablemusic or experience, I
could not at this moment say. The records had been made in
Bali, and the clear, metallic sounds of the music were like the
stirring of a thousand bells, delicate, confused, with a sensuous
charm, a mystery that was quite overpowering. I begged to keep
the records for a few days, and as I played them over and over
I became more and more enchanted with the sound. Who were
the musicians? I wondered. How had this music come about?
Above all, how was it possible, in this late day, for such a music
to have been able to survive?
I returned the records, but I could not forget them. At the
time I knew little about the music of the East. I still believed
that an artist must keep his mind on his own immediate world.
But the effect of the music was deeper than I suspected, for after
I had read in the early books of Crawf urd and Raffles the quite
fabulous accounts of these ancient and ceremonial orchestras,
my imagination took fire, and the day came when I determined
to make a trip to the East to see them for myself.
I leaned against the ship rail recalling all this and watching
the phosphorescent wake fade into the blackness. I could not
get used to the changed appearance of the sky; constellations
that once had been flat designs now took on new dimensions,
disclosing planes that extended far into space. Suddenly the night
was luminous, and the silhouette of mountains, surprisingly near,
stood up against the sky.
As the sun rose the mountains grew streaked with descending
ridges and shadows, and along the foothills the palms glistened
in the early humid light. But with the day the mountains flat-
tened once more into cones, and within an hour, as we landed,
the sun was throwing light and heat in all directions.
The little port town of Buleleng lay white along the edge of
the sea. On either side of the main street, beneath the shade of
enormous overhanging trees, were the shops, half hidden within
a long arcade. Here thermos bottles, flashlights and celluloid
dolls were sold by the Japanese, batiks and Manchester sarongs
by Bombay men. The Chinese shops were crammed with every-
thing under the sun, ironware, porcelain, hams, lacquer, smoked
duck, silks and firecrackers. Arabs, Chinese, and Balinese in gay
flowered batik strolled through the arcades. They sat peacefully
in tiny restaurants, smoking, drinking synthetic pear juice colored
that seductive pink which is the symbol of sweetness in Mexico
and Harlem, Naples, Hong Kong and Batavia. The town gave
forth the faint, voluptuous scent of all eastern cities, of nutmeg
and aromatic cigarettes, coconut-oil, gardenias and drying fish.
From somewhere came the sound of sweet crystal music; of a
gong, and above it thin chimelike melody, commencing, stop-
ping, commencing once again.
A car was waiting to take me over the mountains to the south
shore, but I was in no hurry to leave. I turned off the main street
and wandered down a maze of lanes. Here the shops were simple
boxes with one end knocked away, their contents spilling into
the street. Copra and coffee merchants, photographers and den-
tists crowded side by side. The dentists were Japanese, and their
offices held no secrets from the passer-by. In the center of each
a plush chair balanced on uncertain machinery; the walls were
covered with terrifying charts, while glass cases exhibited pearly
molars and sets of golden teeth.
The music had stopped, but suddenly it began once more,
louder, very near. At the end of the street stood a small Chinese
temple, and the music came from inside the open door. Now
that I was near it was no longer a single voice suspended in the
air; instead, it had become strong and definite, composed of
many different kinds of sounds. It clashed, rang and echoed, and
beneath it all was the persistent beat of drums that rose at one
moment to a fury, fell the next to an almost inaudible throb.
Inside the temple it was cool and dark. Incense burned on the
altar; along the walls were empty gambling-tables, and on the
cement floor beside them lay a few sleeping Chinese, dead to
this world. Near the door mats had been spread and on them,
in the midst of a confusion of gongs and instruments with great
metal keys, sat a score of Balinese musicians. In the shadow you
could barely make out the enormous gongs that hung in the back
of the orchestra, but the light from the door reflected on the
small gongs in front that were set out in horizontal rows. With
serene and unified gestures the men struck the gongs and keys
with little hammers and mallets; those beside the great gongs at
the back held sticks with thickly padded knobs. Only once in a
long time did they seem to come to life, raise their hands to
strike, with infinite gentleness, the knob of the gong that hung
The melody unrolled like some ancient chant, grave and me-
tallic, while around it there wove an endless counterpoint of
tones from the little gongs in front. From time to time, above
the drums there floated the soft, reverberating tone of a great
gong, deep, penetrating, seeming to fill the temple with faintly
The music came to an end and the men laid down their mal-
lets. They stared, but their gaze was not unfriendly. A young
Chinese came up to speak a few polite words in English, and I
began to question him. It seemed that the players had been
engaged for the temple ceremonies as there were no Chinese
musicians in Bulel&ig. The name of the piece just played? He
consulted the drummer. The Sea of Honey.
Once more the men took up their mallets, to begin the more
animated Snapping Crocodile. I stood there utterly fascinated.
It was even more incredible than I had imagined. But this time
when the musicians came to the end they did not begin again.
Some rose and went out. I waited for a while, hoping they would
return, but as I looked at my watch I saw it was time to leave if
I wanted to reach Den Pasar on the south shore of the island
by sundown. I went out reluctantly and walked back through
the narrow streets in the direction from where I came.
The driver kicked off his sandals, curled his toes over the
clutch and started the car. Before we had left town the road
began to climb, past the trim colonial bungalows, past the house
of the Resident, a baroque pile of white columns and cast iron,
up and out into the ricefields that rose in ever-diminishing ter-
races as the road grew steeper. Behind us the sea flattened out
into a wide expanse of blue, separated from the 'sky by a sharp
black line. The ship, already headed for Celebes, was a tiny
object that crawled across the surface of the ocean with the de-
termination of a snail.
The car ran slower and slower as it climbed the mountain,
panting in the heat of the sun. As we left the fields and entered
the forest there was the sound of a minor explosion and a jet of
steam burst from the water cap. The driver stopped the car and
got out with a sigh.
I wandered up the road. The forest was flooded with a soft
golden light that glanced off the surface of huge thick leaves,
turned others transparent, and penetrated caves that lay between
tense, clutching roots. Not a flower to brighten this secret world;
nor a sound, except the sudden brief note of some bird that rang
for a moment like a tuning-fork. I returned to find the driver at
work on the radiator. It had boiled dry, and the heat had melted
the solder in seams that had obviously opened often. The driver
resourcefully packed moss into the spaces, stuffing it in with a
match. Then he plugged the hole with a wedge of wood. From
the car he produced a tin marked Best- Australian Butter and
filled it with water from a brook by the road. He poured it in
and banged down the cap. Then he smiled, said something I did
not understand, and got back in the car.
The forest thinned; we were on the bare summit of the moun-
tain, and the road now ran along the rim of a giant crater. The
inner wall was covered with jungle, and far below shone a lake.
Within this bowl rose a cone, its slopes streaked with lava that
had once run down far into the valley, and from its side came
intermittent gusts of steam that slowly dissolved in the air.
Now the road began its long descent to the sea, disappearing
ahead of us in the zone where the trees began. Soon there were
fields of corn, huts, and at last a village, hidden beneath a grove
of trees. All at once the road was filled with people and animals.
Scenes flashed by; harvesters deep in yellow rice, a ring of noisy
children around two copulating horses, a file of chanting women
with offerings on their heads, a long procession with golden para-
sols that marched to the sound of gongs and wildly beating
drums. The driver slowed up for pigs and ducks, but cut through
chickens and dogs with indifference. Gray, starved and tottering,
on walls, in doorways, the dogs infested the villages. They were
so anemic they could hardly drag themselves off the road. We
drove along, knocking them to one side with a thud.
All at once we were by the sea, now purple in the late after-
noon. Towering pink clouds hung motionless in the sky, making
soft glowing patches on the surface of the water. The road ran
past unloading fishing-praus, past nets already spread on poles to
dry. White plaster houses with tiled roofs appeared; in a moment
we were in Den Pasar and had turned in the driveway of the
I was exhausted and could hardly wait to get out of the car.
The hotel was a large cool bungalow, and I was shown to a room
that opened onto a deep veranda one step above the lawn. Be-
tween the palms one could see people and little carriages forever
passing along the road. I rang for a drink, and sank into the low,
As I waited a new sound rose in the sky, high up, shrill and
tremulous, sweeter than anything I had heard that day. I looked
out. A flock of pigeons circled in the last rays of the sun. The
sound seemed to follow them, and I could not think what it
was. I called the boy, who said that the owner of the birds had
hung little bells to their feet and attached bamboo whistles to
their tail-feathers. Round and round they flew, trailing across the
sky wide loops of sound. And then they vanished, the bells dying
suddenly into nothing.
DEN PASAR was a rambling town of white government build-
ings, a dozen European houses, and a street or so of shops, sur-
rounded by an outer layer of huts crowded beneath a tangle of
trees and palms. There was peace and order in the large square
around which the European houses were set. Here in the late
afternoon the doctor, the Shell agent, the school inspector and
the hospital nurse played tennis; in another part of the field a
desultory game of football took place among the Balinese. They
wore striped jerseys and shorts, striped stockings, and boots that
were too heavy, so that when they ran and kicked you thought
of motions performed under water.
The shops were a repeat of Bulel^ng -a line of Chinese grocers
and goldsmiths, Chinese druggists, photographers and bicycle
agents. There was also a single Japanese photographer (as there
seemed to be in almost every small town in the Indies) who did
little business, but whose shop was strategically placed at the
main crossroad where you could see the European offices and
houses as well as the Chinese shops. On a side-street Arabs sold
textiles and cheap suitcases. In the Javanese ice-cream parlor you
could buy hilariously colored ices when the electric equipment
was in order. There was no church, but the Arab quarters con-
tained a mosque; a small cinema ran wild-west pictures twice a
week. At one end of the main street lay the market, where peo-
ple picked their way through a confusion of pigs and pottery,
batiks, fruit, brassware and mats.
During the day there was the incessant clang of bells from the
pony carts that filled the streets, and the asthmatic honk of buses
and cars forever driving in and out of town. The crowing of a
thousand cocks, the barking of a thousand dogs formed a rich
sonorous background against which the melancholy call of a
passing food vendor stood out like an oboe in a symphony.
But at night, when the shops had closed and half the town was
already asleep, the sounds died so completely that you could hear
every leaf that stirred, every palm-frond that dryly rustled. From
all directions there now floated soft, mysterious music, hum-
ming, vibrating above the gentle, hollow sound of drums. The
sounds came from different distances and gave infinite perspec-
tive to the night. As it grew late the music stopped. Now the
silence was complete, only at long intervals pierced by a solitary
voice, high, nasal, nostalgic, singing an endless tune; or else
broken by the sudden hysteria of the dogs that began in a thin
single wail, rose quickly to a clamor of tormented voices and died
once more into silence.
The hotel with its cool lobbies and tiled floors was an oasis
after a few hours in the glare and heat that I loved but which
drained me of the last drop of energy. I could not believe the
thermometer when it registered only 85. After a walk through
the town I would collapse on the bed, which, like all beds in the
Indies, had no springs. I broke into a rash which the hotel man-
ager recognized at once as red dog, and only the chance discovery
in my dictionary that roode hond meant prickly heat in Dutch
kept me from rushing to the doctor.
I was not trying to learn Dutch, however, but Malay.
Malay is a language that seems childish and simple so far as
expressing daily wants is concerned, and turns out to be elaborate
and ambiguous when it comes to conveying a complex thought.
It is the Esperanto of Malaya and the Indies, and you can even
hear it in Colombo and Hong Kong. The vocabulary contains
much Arabic, a little Sanskrit, Portuguese and Javanese, a little
Dutch and English, and a few lovely-sounding primitive words
for such common objects as man, fish and coconut, that are
known from Madagascar to Easter Island. I had begun to study
when on board ship, but up to now I had not ventured much
past asking for hot shaving water, more coffee, and ice water.
It was only after I met Sarda that I felt the need for a greater
vocabulary. When I wanted a car I phoned the Chinese garage,
and they had got in the habit of sending me a certain ancient
though well-preserved Buick. Sarda was the name of the self-
possessed and handsome youth who drove it with an air of utter
He dressed with elegance. His batik sarong was crisp and new,
covered with a design of flowers and tennis rackets. He wore a
silk sport shirt, and over it a white jacket, elegantly tailored
American style. In the breast pocket were an Eversharp, a foun-
tain pen and a comb. On his feet were sandals and on his head a
batik headcloth, in the folds of which he had fastened a rose.
At first I sat in the back seat of the car, alone with my cam-
eras, thermos and sandwiches, but I soon grew weary of this
isolation and moved to the front, where I could talk to Sarda as
we drove. The hotel manager strongly disapproved. For in this
little gesture anything apparently was to be read, possible friend-
liness and intimacy, and even worse, equality, so abhorrent from
the colonial point of view. You must keep your distance, said
the manager; the correct place for a white man is in the back
seat. In the old days, he continued, Hollanders married natives;
today it is different. Take them to bed if you like, but see they
come in at the back door.
He spoke in heavy earnestness, but without hatred. He was a
red-faced man, forever dripping sweat. He bullied his boys, some-
times in roaring fury, sometimes in tired routine. Yet he must
have gotten on with them, nevertheless, for the service was
Ahmat! he shouted, as we sat in the lobby. Ahmat! he bel-
lowed, and I thought his voice would shatter the glass over the
huge picture of the Queen of the Netherlands that hung
A slim figure approached.
Bring two gin-bitters, and hurry!
He blotted his forehead with a damp handkerchief.
Lazy! he complained. You can teach them nothing. Ten years
I've been here, he moaned. If it weren't for the girls . . . Did
you notice the little one by the door selling rings?
We finished our drinks and I got up. He had a final word
I don't like to see you there in the front seat. The white man
must never forget to maintain the dignity of the white race.
He gave a gentle belch.
Then as an afterthought he added, If you really must sit in
front, drive the car yourself and let the chauffeur sit behind.
But I continued to sit the way I pleased. We drove with the
top down, the hot sun beating on our heads. It was only when
we passed the tennis court or entered the hotel driveway that
I felt self-conscious, ostentatious and subversive.
At the hotel itineraries were posted for those who had only
a few days on the island. Each day was crammed from dawn till
sundown. "Thurs. A.M.: sacred pool; tombs of the kings; palace
at Karangasem; lunch at resthouse. Afternoon: bats' cave; sacred
forest; giant banyan; hot springs. Dance performance at hotel
I preferred to drive at random through the island, getting lost
in the network of back roads that ran up into the hills where,
as you looked down towards the sea, the flooded ricefields lay
shining in the sunlight like a broken mirror. The sound of music
seemed forever in the air. People sang in the fields or in the
streams as they bathed. From behind village walls rose the sound
of flutes and cymbals as invisible musicians rehearsed at all hours
of the day and night. Temples in a state of celebration shook
with the heavy beat of drums, the throb of enormous gongs,
and as we drove home at night we passed through village after
village where, by the roadside, amid a blaze of little lamps, peo-
ple had gathered to sit and watch the puppets of the shadowplay.
As the car ascended from the sea into the mountains, the style
and mood of the music seemed to change. In the lowlands, inu-
sicians played with a bright vivacity, while music shimmered
with ornamentation, rich and complicated as the ornamented
temples themselves. But in the hills, as you traveled higher and
higher, among villages that lay farther and farther apart, the
music, like the architecture of the temples, grew more austere,
took on an air of increasing antiquity and severity. Here, in the
mists and clouds, where temple walls were green with moss and
roofs overgrown with ferns, only rarely was the quiet broken by
the grave sound of ancient ritual music at some village feast.
Although Sarda was clearly bored by these excursions into the
hills (Mountain style! he would remark loftily while we watched
some slow-moving dance) he soon grew resigned to stopping the
car at the sound of music. I would get out, and make my way
through the crowd to where the musicians were gathered. No
one seemed to mind this intrusion in the least, and as I sat there,
listening, and watching the confused events of a temple feast,
the women with their towers of offerings, the ceremonial dancing
before the altars, the processions and the bursting firecrackers,
all sense of time had vanished completely.
Sometimes, after a long morning of casual exploration, Sarda
would stop at the marketplace of some village, where we would
sit at the little coffee-stall for a glass of tea or tepid beer. Above
the murmur of the market there drifted from the open door of
the tiny government school the sound of children's voices,
sleepily chanting the multiplication table to the rap of a ruler.
The presence of the car was not long in attracting a group of
boys. Comments began.
No, Buick 1927. An old model.
An old man would ask: How can it be? A chariot going like
that, alone, without horse or cow.
Unsympathetic laughter banished him to the dark ages.
Wake up, grandfather, thinkf* You push in the foot, pull the
handle and it goes.
Sarda listened in scornful silence. He would turn to me.
, The talk of mountain people! He would start the car with a
flourish, and we departed with magnificent suddenness, like gods.
In the early morning the island had a golden freshness, dripped
and shone with moisture like a garden in a florist's window. By
noon it had become hard and matter-of-fact. But in the late
afternoon the island was transformed once more; it grew unreal,
lavish and theatrical like old-fashioned opera scenery. As the sun
neared the horizon men and women turned the color of new
copper, while shadows grew purple, the grass blue, and every-
thing white reflected a deep rose.
One evening, as we drove along, the full moon rose above the
fields, scarlet, enormous, distorted beyond belief in the invisible
haze. I told Sarda to stop the car, and sat looking in silence. A
tone of romantic enthusiasm in my voice, possibly, had set Sarda
thinking, for suddenly he asked,
In America you have no moon, perhaps?
He spoke so simply I could not tell if irony were intended or
not. I told him we had, and at this he started the car, saying I
would be late for dinner at the hotel.
It was during this first week that, one late afternoon, we came
to a village bright with banners and streamers. In front of the
temple a crowd was gathered, and the sound of swift, compli-
cated music filled the air. I pushed through the wall of people
to a clearing, where at one end sat the musicians among their
instruments. At the other end a pair of curtains stretched on a
wire marked a stage entrance.
The music rose and fell with almost feverish intensity. Before
the orchestra two drummers leaned forward over their drums,
their hands beating against the drum-ends like moth wings
against a lamp. Suddenly the music came to a halt. There was a
pause, while the players rested. But soon they came to attention
once more. They picked up their little hammers and mallets;
there was a signal-accent from the first drummer, and once more
the music broke on the air like a shower. ^
The curtains parted, and through them appeared 'a child
(could she be nine?) clad apparently in gold. The setting sun
cast a spotlight through the trees, and she glittered like an insect
as she moved. Soon she was followed by two others; the folds in
their skirts were stiff and metallic, and in each headdress golden
flowers nodded from the ends of wires and trembled with each
motion of the body. Dance and music were like a single impulse.
The children darted like hummingbirds. Their gestures had in-
finite elegance, and they seemed like little statues, intricate and
delicate, that had come to life not with suppleness but, like the
sequence of images in a film, in a series of poses that lasted the
mere fraction of a second. You felt they were conscious of every
sixteenth-note in the music.
At first the dance was formal and abstract. The story had not
yet begun, said Sarda. But soon it grew clear that a drama was
unfolding. There was a scene of tenderness, followed by a march
around the stage. The first child took up a pair of golden wings
and became a bird. The second waved a kris to ward it off. There
was another march, a battle. The dancers went rapidly from role
Now the king of Lasem takes leave of the princess Langkasari
whom he has carried off, said Sarda. He goes to fight her brother.
A raven flies before him. He stumbles over a stone. He will be
killed . . .
At last the music came to an end, and the children, their
foreheads damp with sweat, sat down by the musicians, drooping
like wilted flowers. There was something poignantly troubling
in the cool preadolescent grace, the serenity of the faces that
were neither innocent nor corrupt
Over and over the hypnotic music seemed to ring in my ears
above the motor of the car as we drove home in the night.
Those are the legong dancers of the prince of Saba, Sarda re-
marked. They say he is madly in love with the first, but he can-
not marry her yet. He must wait her first menses. His second
wife is sick with jealousy.
What does the little girl think about it?
Etobably nothing. She wouldn't dare. She is only a peasant.
You would think he would prefer one of the others. They are
prettier, and one is a princess, the other a Brahman.
They seem very young.
But who desires an opened flower? And besides, if you want
And he, what is he like?
A great gambler, a great lover of dancing. His musicians are
famous. He was playing the drum just now.
I remembered the dramatic-looking young man who drummed
so feverishly, his eyes fixed on the dancers as they moved across
the stage. His energy seemed to flow into every accent of the
music, every motion of the dancers, through their bodies and
out into the fragile hands that were forever forming new and
And who trains the dancers?
He trains them himself, they say.
We drove on in silence. It was too late for dinner at the hotel,
and I went to the Chinese restaurant on the main street. It was
almost closing time, and I sat alone with Sarda while the sleepy
cook took down a pan and fanned the dying fire. From some-
where in the back came the sound of a flute above a faintly
We drove down to the sea. The moon was high, and the
beach was flooded with silver light. Around the bay in the dis-
tance the mountains were small and transparent.
I feel like swimming, I said. Is it safe?
Yes; here there are no sharks.
Will you come along?
Sarda put the key of the car in his pocket and got out.
We undressed, hanging our clothes over the side of a dugout
that lay drawn up on the beach. We walked slowly into the
water. Far out you could hear the surf on the reefs; far out the
little lamps of the fishing-praus shone and bobbed up and down.
When we came out we sat on the rocks to let the faint breeze
blow us dry. I did not want to return to the hotel. For a long
time I lay on the sand, listening to the sea breaking on the reefs,
letting the sand flow through my fingers.
Tuan seems very happy here, remarked Sarda a few days later.
Very happy indeed, Sarda.
Why remain at the hotel? I know of a small house for rent
in a village not far from Den Pasar. It is not dear.
In my mind I saw a thatched hut against a background of
tree-ferns and bamboos. I suddenly realized how bored I was
with the hotel, how imperative it was to live my own way, in
my own house. I told Sarda we would go to the village the fol-
lowing morning. If the house had a roof I was determined to
THE HOUSE IN KEDATON
THE house was small and square, with a roof of corrugated tin
and walls covered inside and out with damp white plaster. It
had four rooms of exactly the same size, with a shuttered win-
dow to each, and the floors were cement that threw back a
ringing echo at the least noise. In the back was a still smaller
building which contained kitchen, bath and a place for a servant
to unroll his sleeping-mat.
The house stood on a small rectangle of ground surrounded
by an almost empty moat, overgrown with moss and ferns,
from which a frog croaked dismally from time to time. Once
this moat had been filled to the brim; for the house, it seemed,
had been built as a "pleasure-retreat" for a Brahman priest of
the village, and was still known to all as the Gunung Sari, Moun-
tain of Flowers. But the priest had long since given it up, and
now rented it from time to time to a passing white man who
wished to live native style.
The doors creaked; the rooms were musty; the place had been
shut a year. But from the deep veranda in front you looked out
through the palms over gleaming ricefields and caught a glimpse
of the sea beyond. Arrangements were conducted through the
businesslike young grandson of the old priest, who said that the
rent would be forty guilders a month and that I could move in
when I wished. He promised there would be the necessary fur-
niture when I arrived.
The disapproval of the hotel manager when I told him my
change in plans was real if not eloquent. But when he saw I
would not listen he suddenly became surprisingly human, and
offered to lend me linen, silver and comfortable chairs. I thought
I even detected the slightest inflection of envy in his voice as he
now gave advice about white ants and warned about the water.
He said I would need a cook and a houseboy, and that my room
boy could easily find them for me.
That evening an exceedingly languid youth in white jacket
and trousers approached my veranda at the hotel, sat down on
the floor and bowed politely, hands clasped below his chin. He
did not look very efficient, but the room boy said he had recently
worked in the hotel. He said also that he had found me a cook,
and the next morning as I went out in my pajamas for the early
cup of coffee she was already waiting for me, standing patiently
in the wet grass. She was a short, plump Madurese with a round
face that had the expression of a sulky child. She was barefoot,
and wore a white sarong covered with red peacocks; a short white
jacket parted at the seams under her arms in order to meet across
her breasts, exposing a triangle of midriff.
This is the koki, said the houseboy. She can cook Dutch.
Good day, koki, I said.
Tab6 tuan; tuan chari Icofci?
She spoke in the strange, childish singsong of the Indonesian
servant, colorless and remote. I gave her some money, told her to
buy pots and pans, and said I would have lunch at the house two
Two days later the house had become warm and alive. I found
the priest's son and two other boys waiting to welcome me. They
had swept the house clean and arranged the furniture in careful
order. The koki and the houseboy were already there; the shut-
ters were wide open, and about the place there was an air of
Two of the rooms had been furnished exactly alike. Each con-
tained a loose, musical iron bed, draped like a girl at her first
communion in limp white netting. In the bed were two pillows,
and down the center ran the dutchwife, a long bolster, plump
as a sausage. Against a wall in each room was a table with an
enamel jug and basin, and above it a small mirror. In the corner
stood a chair. The third room contained a bare dining-table and
four chairs symmetrically placed. The fourth room contained
nothing at all. On the open window sills the boys had placed
drinking-glasses with bright flowers that shone transparently in
the morning sun.
The koki was already at home. She sat on the kitchen floor,
fanning the fires of three small braziers and stirring the contents
of the pans on top. Around her were bowls of grated coconut,
fried onions and ingredients I could not identify. On the mat
beside her lay little mounds of red peppers, garlic and nuts.
There was a litter of bananas, duck-eggs and crabs, some Austral-
ian butter in a large tin, and a stupefied chicken, tied by the leg
to a nail in the wall. Her cigarettes and betel were within easy
reach. An emaciated dog had already adopted the place and
sniffed in the corners of the room.
In the air was a powerful, complex smell, acrid and pungent,
of burnt feathers, fish and frying coconut-oil. I was to find this
a daily smell, punctual and inevitable as the morning smell of
coffee at home. It came chiefly from sra, a paste of shrimps that
had once been ground, dried, mixed with sea-water, then buried
for months to ferment. It was used in almost everything, fried
first to develop the aroma. It was unbelievably putrid. An amount
the size of a pea was more than enough to flavor a dish. It gave
a racy, briny tang to the food, and I soon found myself craving
it as an animal craves salt.
Each night I gave the koki a guilder, at that time about forty
cents, which she converted into Chinese coins when she went
to the market at dawn. She bought a pair of chickens or a beau-
tiful fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, rice, beancurd, a handful of
dried fish for herself and the boy, and had something left over
to treat herself to cigarettes and betel.
Each morning she appeared around seven with a large wash-
basin balanced on her head. It had become a fantastic hat
trimmed with pineapples, leeks, cabbages and bananas, from out
of which peered a numb-looking chicken or duck.
Tab6 koki. How goes it?
She was too remote, too indifferent to fill in the correct reply.
She trudged silently to the back of the house. But it would not
be long before her voice took on another tone. She was a woman
with a little, shrewish temper, and she refused to get along with
the houseboy. She was a Madurese and a Mohammedan, while
he was a heathen Balinese, and a pork-eater into the bargain. Her
scolding would burst forth in a sharp chatter that rose to a
squeak and disappeared in the higher overtones of final exasper-
For lunch she cooked Javanese style, which meant rice, accom-
panied by a dozen different dishes that were enough for six
people. The table was crowded with bowls in which fish and
fowl swam in sauces of green, yellow or scarlet. Some dishes
tasted somewhat like curry, though infinitely fresher in flavor;
some were so hot with spice they brought tears to the eyes and
sweat to the forehead.
The preparation of these dishes was involved, and took hours
of patient labor. The idea, it seemed, was variety to please
a gourmet's palate, for a chicken was never cooked in one
way only, but divided into parts, to be fried, broiled, stewed,
shredded, and seasoned with great care for contrast. A fish she
cooked in the same way. This, however, was not enough, for
there were endless little side-dishes of strange delicacies stewed
acacia blossoms, preserved duck-eggs, tiny octopus fried crisp and
looking like a dish of spiders.
Her sweets were even stranger. For lunch would end perhaps
with corn and grated coconut mixed with a syrup of palm-sugar,
soggy little balls of rice-paste treacherously filled with more syrup,
or a sliced pineapple to be eaten with salt, red pepper and garlic.
But at night the koki "cooked Dutch/' Then she would send
in a meat loaf, or duck in a black and curious sauce. Pancakes
and blancmange alternated for dessert.
The houseboy was strangely limp and colorless. He had said,
Call me Gusti (prince) though it seemed he had no right to
the title. He a Gusti? exclaimed the koki to me privately. She
laughed derisively. In the early morning Gusti brought me luke-
warm coffee while he was still half asleep. He dragged the mat-
tress into the sun, moved chairs and dusted as though it took
his last ounce of strength. He managed to wash a shirt or two
each morning, and spent the afternoon in a delicious dream-
world of cigarette smoke and slow, thoughtful ironing. First he
did my shirts, then a pair of trousers. After this he rested. Then
he pressed his own shirt and jacket, or spent an hour ironing
fancy pleats into his sarong. This he wore when not in the mood
for trousers, wrapped neatly around his waist and falling down
the front in folds, which lay in flat accordion-pleats that opened
out when he walked, reminding you of Egyptian reliefs.
Soon the house was running of its own accord. I grew deaf to
the koki's voice; as I learnt to understand what she was saying it
became clear that she scolded much of the time simply to keep
in practice; these outbursts were her daily vocal exercises, neces-
sary to keep her voice flexible in the long complaint of woman
The village was laid out square as a chessboard. Like all villages
on the island, it was a network of roads and lanes that ran north
and south, east and west. It gave the impression of lying in the
heart of a lovely forest; the houses were hidden behind walls in
a jungle of breadfruit-trees and palms, whose long fronds drooped
like plumes and reflected the morning sunlight at a thousand
The house lay just off the main road at one end of the village.
Across the way stood the Temple of Origins. You walked down
the road past the Temple of the Village Elders to the market
and the men's clubhouse. Then you came to the Temple of the
Earth's Axis. Out in the fields stood the little temple for Sri, the
rice goddess. Still farther away you could see from the house a
group of shrines for Saraswati, goddess of learning. Beyond the
graveyard at the south edge of the village stood the Temple of
the Dead. Silent, deserted, each temple waited for its feast-day,
when the courts would fill with people and the walls echo with
At the marketplace in the center of the village all was life and
movement from dawn till late at night. Here people came to
meet and gossip, and buy a handful of dried fish or a measure of
rice. Once in three days, on market-day, you could buy pigs and
ducks, mats, Japanese textiles, hardware from China and Java.
Here too, in the shade of the great banyan that covered the en-
tire market, men gathered each day to talk idly, or sit and think
about nothing at all. They brought their fighting-cocks, and sat
for hours absent-mindedly massaging the firm tense legs, or run-
ning the long silky necks through their fingers.
At night the men's clubhouse became the social center. It was
a long hut of bamboo and palm-thatch, with a raised floor of
earth that had dried hard as a rock. Here the gamelan that be-
longed to the music club of the younger men in the village was
kept. In the daytime you seldom passed without hearing from
within the soft chime of gongs or metal keys as some child, sit-
ting in the cool darkness of the empty hut, improvised and learnt
for himself how to play. But after dark the hut was a luminous
center surrounded by a blaze of little lamps. Outside the sales-
women had set down their tables of sweets and betel, while the
members of the club gathered inside to practice. Now was the
time to go through the music they already knew, for the sheer
pleasure of it, or work over the difficult parts of some new com-
position they were just learning. They used no notes (indeed
there were none, it seemed); each phrase of the melody, each
intricate detail of accompaniment they had learned by ear,
listening carefully and with infinite patience to the teacher who
had, perhaps, been called from some other village. Late into the
night they played. From the house I could hear them going over
phrase after phrase, correcting, improving, until the music began
to flow of its own accord. I fell asleep with the sounds ringing in
my ears, and as I slept I still heard them, saw them rather, for
now they seemed transformed into a shining rain of silver.
A BALINESE village is divided into wards or ban/ars. Each has
its headman, its priest, its separate community life. Sometimes
the village is a peaceful one, with a harmonious relationship
between all ban jars, but often (I was to find out) there is bitter-
ness and rivalry between adjacent wards, especially among the
youths and younger men. One evening shortly after I had come
to the village I received a call from the head of my own banjar.
It was dusk, and I was sitting on the veranda talking with Sarda
when I heard the sound of steps on the gravel. I looked out, to
see three figures approaching single file through the trees. The
leader walked in a curious way. He seemed to drift in, for al-
though he advanced in a straight line his body slanted sideways
to the right, while his head tilted slightly to title left. He gave the
impression of being on the point of going off in any direction.
But there was authority, I could see, in the way he came up
the two steps of the veranda and sat down on the floor a little
distance from my chair. His two young followers sat respectfully
on the lower step.
Sarda introduced him.
This is Nyoman Kal6r, head of the banjar and teacher of the
He wore a tight white coat, cut in the old colonial style, with
brass buttons that ran up to the neck; a worn sarong and a tightly
knotted headcloth completed his attire. He bowed politely be-
Tuan has just arrived? They say tuan is from America.
He spoke in a gentle, friendly voice. He was a slight man, per-
haps thirty, with intelligent eyes and a smiling, well-shaped
mouth that was both sensual and vaguely sarcastic. There was
also something a little pedantic about him, something birdlike
in the way he inclined his head first one way then another as he
The boys sat very still and silent, their hands folded in their
laps. The older one had the features of Nyoman Kal6r, but in his
face there was only serenity. A small white flowerbud hung down
the center of his forehead, its stem fastened in a hair.
Tuan has come to paint pictures perhaps?
My visitor came directly to the point.
I explained that I was a musician, that I composed music, and
had come here simply to listen to Balinese music. I told him I
expected to remain several months. I said I was happy to know
he was a musician like myself, and I hoped he would come often
to the house.
Yes, he replied, willingly! And if he could be of service I had
only to ask.
After a short time he politely asked permission to depart. All
three bowed, rose and walked out into the dark.
He is a clever man, remarked Sarda after they had left. He
knows a lot besides music and dancing.
GustTs comment was less enthusiastic.
They say he can become a 16yak.
What do you mean?
He hesitated, lowered his voice.
He knows how to turn himself into a monkey or a ball of fire.
The boy with the flower, who was he?
His nephew, Mad6 Tantra.
Two days later Nyoman Kal6r made a second appearance. He
came alone, in the middle of the morning, and the time passed
in the most agreeable of conversations. As we sat there, smoking
and drinking coffee, I began to question him about music in the
It turned out that in our banjar there were three separate
gamelans, and he was the head of all three. One belonged to the
legong club. There was also the gandrung club.
What is gandrung? I asked.
The dance is something like legong, but the dancer is a boy
in girl's clothes. He dances in the streets for a few pennies, going
from door to door. There is another gandrung in the next banjar,
but ours is better. When he dances there are always many who
step out to dance with him. They can hardly wait their turn . . .
There was a look of satisfaction in Nyoman's face. He took a
heart-shaped betel leaf from a little pouch, folded it and put it
in his mouth.
The third gamelan was seldom seen. It was kept locked in the
Temple of the Sea and taken out only on feast-days, to play the
stately ceremonial music without which no celebration would be
And the gamelan that practices each night in the clubhouse
by the market? I asked.
His voice was suddenly thin as he answered, It is the music
club of the banjar to the south; and though he smiled there was
a curious withdrawal in his eyes. He sat for a while, preoccupied
and no longer communicative, and soon he rose and took a
Sarda explained. Hot rivalry burned between Nyoman's 16gong
gamelan and the club of the other banjar. Members did not
speak. Moreover in the past month the other club had been
called twice to Den Pasar to appear at the hotel. Nyoman's club
had gone there only once . . .
Late that afternoon I heard the animated sound of gongs,
cymbals and drums passing along the road, and as I looked
through the trees I could see the rival club, wearing their bright-
est clothes, marching in procession towards Den Pasar.
They are going to meet the bus from West Bali, said Sarda.
Gusti Bagus, who is head of their banjar, emerges today from
jail, and they are going to greet him.
He had sold some ricefields, it seemed, that belonged to his
brother. He had been away six months.
Nyoman Kaler had been a dancer as a boy. He was brought up
at the old court of the prince of Blahbatu. His father was one
of the parakans, feudal retainers, of the prince, and had been,
among other things, a member of the palace gamelan. Nyoman
Kaler (lithe and attractive, as a child, I imagined) had been
trained as a court dancer.
What kind of dance? I asked him one time.
Nandir; it is no longer danced. It was the same as legong.
Boys took the part of girls then more often than today.
Why did you stop?
I grew up and my suppleness was lost.
He had turned to music. He could, of course, have become
an actor as he grew older, for in the ancient theater of the court,
so formal and highly stylized, it was very hard to say where danc-
ing ended and acting began. But he had no voice, he said. He
was, moreover, too slightly built for the heroic ban's or warrior's
dance; or the equally heroic topeng, the honored mask-plays that
had to do with the ancient kings of Bali. With the death of the
old Anak Agung the court had fallen into a decline. Nyoman
had left, to come to Kedaton where his family owned ricefields.
When the 16gong club was formed he had trained both dancers
and musicians. The little dancers had been a great success; soon
he was in demand in other villages, and today he was well estab-
lished. He belonged to the peasant class, and the other men in
his household worked the ricefields. I thought, however, he had
chosen well, for I could not possibly imagine him behind a plow,
or bending over to set out, one by one, the young rice plants in
the flooded fields.
In these early conversations with Nyoman I caught glimpses
of ancient and brilliant courts, of palaces forever ringing with
music and crowded with actors and dancers. For at one time the
princes of Bali had been great patrons of the arts. Many of them
had come from Java to escape the wave of Islamic culture that
had begun to spread through the land. With their wives and
concubines, their soldiers, craftsmen, actors and musicians, they
continued in Bali to live in a splendor half barbarous, half pro-
vincial, patterned on the great and luxurious courts of the Java-
But now a glittering court life was almost a thing of the past.
Government pawnshops overflowed with treasures from the pal-
ace. Gongs and jeweled krises, golden rings and headdresses filled
shelves and glass cases, while the palaces decayed and grew clut-
tered with rocking chairs and mirrors, umbrella stands, jardinieres
and telephones. As they passed along the road, the six rajahs now
glared at each other from closed Packards. You could tell their
cars at once by the tiny golden parasols above the radiator caps,
and by the swift efficient driving of the chauffeurs. The princes
rumbled by in open Fords which they were forever repairing by
the roadside. Now and then they passed on motorcycle.
At the court of Blahbatu, said Nyoman, recalling twenty
years before, there were two great orchestras. In the outer palace
stood the massive Gamelan with the Great Gongs, to play for
ceremonies and welcome the arrival of guests. In the inner palace
an assembly of little gongs and keyed instruments more delicately
formed, sweeter and softer in tone, played a far more romantic
music. This was the gamelan Semar-pagulingan, the Gamelan of
Semara, God of Love, God of the Pillowed Bed. The music,
said Nyoman, soothed and rejoiced the heart with its sweetness.
Every evening it began; off and on the musicians played, late into
the night . . .
Where is the gamelan now? I asked.
It had been pawned long ago, said Nyoman, and later bought
by the men of Sukawati, and transformed into a gamelan for
But the gamelan of state remained, he thought, and one day
we drove to Blahbatu to see the instruments, for they were, it
seemed, unusually large and handsome. (The gongs you could
hear for miles, said Nyoman.) The keys had been dismounted
and stored away, and now only the carved wooden stands were
to be seen, crowded in a shed and covered with dust.
But if the courts of Bali today grew increasingly silent, in the
villages music rang more loudly than ever. No temple feast could
conceivably begin before the arrival of the Gamelan with the
Great Gongs, whose stately ceremonial music, mingling with the
prayers of priest and the chant of worshipers, was considered as
necessary for the pleasure of the gods as incense, flowers and
offerings. For the further entertainment of the gods (and mor-
tals by happy coincidence) a variety of dances and masques were
rehearsed to the more delicate L6gong Gamelan democratically
adapted from the princely Gamelan of the Love God. Proces-
sions marched to the lively beat of the Gamelan of the Little
Gongs or the more primitive Gamelan of the Bamboo Rattles,
Anonymous, unwritten, the music on these occasions was an-
cient as the rites themselves, unchanged, apparently, for cen-
For the boys and young men of the village, however, music
had become something more intense than the mere accompani-
ment for ritual or ancient dance. A new wave of musical enthu-
siasm had recently swept the island, and clubs formed overnight
as young musicians organized to learn kebyar, the new, the
deliciously exciting music that had first been heard around Bule-
16ng, and was now taking the island by storm. Night after night
villages shook with the crash of cymbals and the brassy clang of
little gongs as the clubs furiously rehearsed for an approaching
competition. Then was the time for outstanding clubs to meet
and tirelessly play against each other all day and all night. The
verdict of the judges sowed seeds of bitterness, and the kindest
word was Sap a tie! Otherwise the losers brooded for months,
while the winners were insufferable.
But in the shade of this emotional florescence, so torrid, in
so high a key, the more conservative clubs continued to produce
their classical plays and dances. These remained dear to the
hearts of all. Night after night people gathered to watch as some
youthful group of actors rehearsed beneath the trees. They sat
entranced before the lighted screen of the shadowplay, never
tiring of the ancient legends of prince Rama, or the endless wars
of the Pandawas. Drama both entertained and edified; the ex-
emplary restraint of the legendary heroes and the nobility of
their words presented an ancient ideal of conduct and manners.
As for kebyar (commented Nyoman), it was like an explosion;
once the sound had died nothing remained.
ONE morning an old woman came in with a covered basket and
sat down on the lower step of the veranda. She had some "an-
cient objects" to sell. Did I wish to see them?
She uncovered the basket and took out a pile of brocades, a
kris, a silver dish. At the bottom of the basket were several
masks, and these she now arranged in a row along the floor.
They were worn with age, but two seemed to me very beautiful.
I bought them and hung them on the wall.
The two masks differed as night from day. The one, dark-
colored, devoured with fury, was the complete negation of the
other that hung beside it, a fragile, chalk-white shell, serene and
shadowless. It grew in mystery the more I looked at it. It had
the same sexless calm that I had found so haunting and enig-
matic in the faces of the little 16gong dancers I had seen at Saba.
I had caught the expression again in the face of Mad6 Tantra as
he sat on the veranda the night of Nyoman Kaler's first appear-
ance. The next time Nyoman came to the house I questioned
Those masks on the wall, whose masks are they?
He did not answer immediately. That depends, he said. It is
hard to say. They would follow the story. The small one is that
of a prince perhaps Rama. It was the gentle type, the "sweetly
brave/' the restrained, the manis. He got up from the chair, went
to the end of the veranda and turned around.
He had taken a dramatic pose that was both sculpturesque
and fluid. At first it was purely two-dimensional, as though he
were part of some temple relief. His thighs were turned outwards,
his knees bent, while he slowly raised his arms, closing his hands
in formal designs. He narrowed his eyes, seemed to gaze far
away, while the shadow of a smile now played about his mouth.
He began to move forward into a third dimension. He gently
shifted his weight from foot to foot with lovely control, while
head slanted, hands turned, in perfect harmony with his move-
ments. It was strange and dreamlike, like swimming seen in a
He spoke some lines; his voice rose in stylized falsetto, sweetly
harsh, indolently rising and falling in formal declamation. He
created an atmosphere of remoteness and utter unreality, created
a character that seemed both feminine and tense with hidden
force. He paused, returned to this world.
Like that, he said. So prince Panji would enter in the gambuh
play. But a keras character, violent and unrestrained, is very dif-
ferent, he continued. When the king of Lasem appears, he moves
like this . . .
He drew himself up proudly. His gestures lost all suavity. His
face was transformed; his eyes stared, his mouth was tense,
drawn down at the corners. He advanced menacingly, and as he
spoke his voice was loud and rasping. He stopped.
It was only a brief impression, a mere indication that he had
given, but with it the masks on the wall seemed to take on depth
But the masks, I said. When would they be used?
There were three different theaters, he explained, three differ-
ent kinds of actors. In one theater you see the actors as ordinary
men; in the second they are masked. In the third the actors are
simply shadows thrown upon a screen, the shadows of little pup-
pets, operated by a single man who recites and improvises around
the ancient tales.
I had read about this mysterious little theater, perhaps the
most ancient of all, claimed by some to have its origin in rites
in which the shades of the departed were called back to this
world. Even today much of the magic atmosphere, it seemed,
remained, for Nyoman talked of the great care taken of the
puppets and the offerings which must be made for them before
a play could be given.
I must see a shadowplay, I said. I've been in Kedaton two
weeks and not yet seen one.
It is not often the village is so quiet, he said. We sat there
talking. From the kitchen came the sound of a broken glass,
followed by the familiar outburst of scolding.
I was hoping Mad6 Tantra would come again, I said. As yet
I have no friends here in Kedaton.
I will tell him, said Nyoman. He rose, and after saying good-by
walked down the path beneath the trees to the roadway.
ONE morning as I returned home from a walk in the ricefields,
I entered the gate of the Temple of the Dead which lay at the
edge of the graveyard beyond the village. A wall ran round a
small group of pavilions and shrines set out in order along the
sides of the courtyard. The stone bases were carved, and inlaid
with Chinese porcelain plates. Between the altars grew flowering
shrubs, and in a corner a twisted frangipani leaned forward, its
naked branches bursting with starry blossoms. The courtyard
was swept clean, immaculate except for the newly fallen flowers
that shone like bits of paper on the black earth. There was an
atmosphere of peace, silence and decay, of neglect and loving
care. Gold and lacquer had tarnished, thatch had worn, while
moss and mold crept over the vines and leaves that sculptors had
once cut into the stones.
In the walls reliefs were filled with little figures animals,
fishes, humans, birds. In a baroque jungle of plants and scrolls
heroes made war against demons, made love to maidens. Elegant
and archaic, mystic and sensual, they moved in a shallow world
which however was given infinite perspective by the ever-chang-
ing shadows cast by the sun. Between heroic episodes were scenes
from daily life. Here the artist had turned from mythology to the
joys of reporting. Men slew pigs, played flutes and gongs, fished
and made exuberant love. Their activities had been recorded
with an observant eye and an obvious love for detail, detail that
seemed miraculous when I touched the stone that had been cut.
Nets had mesh; flowers, stamens; vine tendrils stood out in actual
spirals. I felt that if an earthquake should destroy them, these
walls would quickly be built once more, carved with the same
As I passed the market I met Nyoman and Made Tantra. We
sat for a while at the counter of the Javanese coffee-stall, piled
with fruit and gaudy cakes, while Nyoman told me there would
be a shadowplay that night in Kuta, a half hour's drive away.
Will you go, Nyoman?
No, I must teach.
Perhaps Mad6 Tantra would like to come with me?
Made Tantra spoke at last; Yes, I should like to.
I said that Sarda would call for him in the car on his way to
the house that evening. We finished our coffee and left.
It was late in the evening when we arrived, and the perform-
ance was about to begin. Around the clearing in front of the
men's clubhouse a hundred oil-lamps glowed on a hundred little
tables. Some of these were for gambling, and the men sat around
them noisily betting and banging down coins. Behind others sat
the saleswomen with their sweets and bottles of arac. The air was
filled with the scent of flowers that lay spread among the wares,
to be sold to those seized with the sudden desire to make them-
In a booth to one side was a lighted screen, and on the ground
in front the people sat, waiting for the play to begin. From be-
hind the screen came the sound of soft, swift music. I went to
the back, to find a small crowd collected to watch the dalang
(the operator) set up the puppets.
Half in trance he sat there cross-legged, close to the screen,
beneath the light of a flaring oil-lamp that swung above his head.
With careful deliberation he took a figure from the box, studied
it, lovingly arranged its arms. At last he handed it to an assistant,
to search for another in the box that was packed with figures.
The little puppets reminded me of the carvings I had seen
that morning in the temple walls. They had the same delicacy,
the same two-dimensional style; but instead of being cut in stone
they had been chiseled out of thin leather and the details of
their costumes stamped in tiny holes and slashes. They were not
flexible, for only the arms moved, jointed at the shoulder and
elbow. They were controlled by thin sticks attached to the hands;
another stick ran down the center of the body to brace it, and
stuck out to act as handle. The puppets were so pierced with
holes that when held against the light they were like lace. They
were painted in gold and bright colors, and when the light fell
on them they sparkled iridescently.
One by one the assistants took them gods and demons, mor-
tals, animals and little properties and set them in their correct
place to the right or left of the screen. This was significant. Gods
went to the right, demons to the left, mortals to either side, ac-
cording to their character. At last only a small space remained
in the center of the screen for the dramatic action. The puppets
stood huddled at the sides, and from the outside the screen
seemed framed in a tangled forest of shadows. In the center the
lamp glowed dimly through the screen, a mystic flame, disem-
At last the dalang was ready. He folded his hands, closed his
eyes, and his lips moved silently. He was pronouncing to himself
certain magic formulas, so that (a) his voice might be sweet,
(b) his jokes meet with success, and (c) his performance be
pleasing to all to the gods and to mortals male, female and
He stopped. Between the toes of one foot he held a small
block of wood, which he struck against the puppet box several
times as signal that the play would begin. I went outside to sit
among the crowd and see the play in black and white.
From behind the screen came the voice of the dalang as he
chanted in old Javanese the introduction; the phrases rose like
an incantation, as though he were summoning the shadows from
another world. At last his voice grew still, the music stopped;
the screen was a luminous rectangle in the dark, and behind it
the little shadow-figures now began to appear. They came and
went like moths flying across a beam of light.
At first there was little action. The exposition was an endless
dialogue between two rival princes. (The play was from the wars
of the Pandawas, said Tantra. He couldn't say what part.) They
stood there, facing each other, punctuating their speeches with
a slight movement of their long, outstretched arms. Their voices
gently rose and fell like the breathing of a sleeper, but suddenly
they would grow sharp, stridently falsetto, frigid and vicious with
hate. The arms rose with sinister restraint, denouncing with
swift, menacing gestures.
But now the clowns appeared. There were two pairs, each pair
devoted attendants to a prince. From behind their heroes they
threatened each other grotesquely. Their voices were insinu-
atingly intimate and oily. When an attendant spoke to his prince
he raised his arms in a sembah of respect. And yet his voice
seemed to be slyly mocking, for when he spoke the audience
laughed loudly at his lines.
The scene changed. A tender dialogue took place between
prince and princess. Back and forth the shadows swam, eclipsing
each other, becoming one in a brief embrace. The dalang's voice
was now honey-sweet, incredibly feline and erotic. But again the
clowns appeared, this time male and female attendants. Their
love-making was scandalous, and the climax held a great surprise.
The figure of the male servant was jointed at more places than
the arms, for suddenly an enormous phallus sprang out. In the
uproarious laughter of the crowd there rose falsetto catcalls from
the boys and high nasal cries from the women, exaggerated and
At other times they listened attentively, as though they
couldn't bear to miss a word. They cheered the defeat of the foe,
and when the favorite clown dealt death to hundreds by un-
hooking his proud emblem of virility and using it as a club the
children yelled with glee.
Sarda slept in the car. Mad6 Tantra sat beside me, lost in the
play. Once he got up to bring me a banana-leaf of rice and turtle
meat. Then he brought a glass of arac. We sat there long after
the moon had disappeared behind the palms. The sky grew pale;
on the screen action had died and the lamp grew dim. In the
distance you could hear the surf on the rocks. As they waited
for the d6nouement people dozed, while piled against each
other the children slept, relaxed as kittens.
Suddenly, as though to synchronize with the approach of day,
the play broke into life. Music burst out; warriors appeared;
arrows flew; demons were slain, princess rescued. Within five
minutes the play was over; the audience rose to its feet and
As we walked back to the car a man came up and spoke to
Tantra! How did you get here?
I came with the tuan.
They talked for a moment; I got into the back of the car and
opened the thermos of coffee. I was frightfully sleepy.
Who was that? I asked Made Tantra as he got in beside me.
Lotring, a friend of Nyoman's. He taught the musicians who
played tonight. He is very clever . . .
I thought of the delicate music I had been listening to all eve-
ning. It had a strangely rushing sound, an indefinable, nervous
energy, a laciness that seemed to translate magically into sound
the movements of the mysterious little shadows. Four musicians
sat facing one another, and as hands moved with incredible
rapidity up and down above the keys, I could only think of four
perfectly co-ordinated little pianos. Sometimes the music rang
out harsh and clanging as a furious battle between the puppets
took place; grew languid for a love scene; died to almost nothing
as the "sweetly gentle" prince lamented. As usual, the sounds
kept ringing in my ears long after the music had stopped.
It's almost day, I said to Made Tantra.
But he was sound asleep, his head falling against my shoulder
as we turned a curve. In the early morning light people had
begun to stir. Smoke rose from the little offerings that burned
before the doorways in every village. In the mist men followed
their water buffaloes out into the ricefields. Once home I fell on
the bed and slept till noon.
At the time of full moon these shadowplays seemed to be
taking place all over the island. I would count a dozen in one
evening as I drove along at night. What was the occasion? I
would ask Sarda.
A marriage ceremony, a tooth filing. The dedication of a new
temple or clubhouse. A cremation . . .
How many dalangs do you suppose there are in Bali?
He thought. He could not say. Perhaps a thousand. There
were ten within a mile of my own village.
I went with Nyoman Kal6r one evening to see the dalang who
lived at the other end of the village, a Brahman by the name of
Ida Bagus Anom. He was a great scholar, said Nyoman, well
read in the classics. His father had been a priest . . .
He was a grave man, with large, heavy-lashed eyes that were
both intelligent and mystic. He was not surprised to see me,
for Nyoman had announced my visit the day before. We sat
talking while a boy dragged out the heavy puppet box and
opened it One by one the dalang took out the puppets and
passed them to me, pronouncing their names. Some were so
fragile, so pierced with patterns that the leather barely held to-
gether, and when you held them to the light they seemed com-
pletely transparent. Others were dark and squat, clumsy and
absurd. Some carried spears, others gongs and drums. There
were elephants, tigers, amorphous sea beasts, horses with fine
One puppet I looked at several minutes. It had an air of
delicate nobility, with eyes long and narrow, lips curved in smile,
a slender torso in gold that disappeared in a cloud of filmy
Arjuna, said the dalang. One of the Pandawa princes. They
belong to the right.
The side of the gods.
As I looked at it he began to recite.
Such is the nature of his smile, that it discloses not his heart.
An air of serenity conceals his trouble. Still undetermined, he
cares not to reveal his thoughts. His intentions he will not quickly
tell . . .
These lines, said Nyoman, introduced Arjuna to the audience.
I picked up another puppet. It was the figure of a demon-
woman, with staring eyes, a fanged mouth, great pendulous
Durga, goddess of death, said the dalang. A puppet of the left.
A third figure seemed to have Arjuna's face, but on the head
was a towering crown, and the body was colored green. This was
the god Indra. Siva the Protector was almost identical, except
for his color and his four arms. But Siva the Destroyer had a
dozen demons' heads, was surrounded with flames, had clawed
hands and feet.
One more puppet held my attention. It was fat and grotesque,
clad only in a breechclout The lined face was filled with craft
and genial sensuality; the eyes were wise and weary. It was
Tual6n, the faithful attendant of the hero. This was the beloved
clown, whose impudence delighted the crowd, the Falstaff, the
Sancho Panza who deflated high-flown motives and sentiment,
criticizing even the gods. He it was whose jokes were both cynical
and obscene, who parodied so outrageously the poetic love
scenes, who could be counted on to think of ways to outwit
the enemy at the last moment, and always dealt the last trium-
phant blow in battle.
Tualen! said the dalang, looking at the puppet with affection.
He is older than them all ...
He put the puppets back, arranging them with care. Each had
its proper place in the pile. Tual6n must go last, on top. He put
the arms in order, set the figure gently down, and closed the lid.
The lamp of the shadow theater is the sun, said Ida Bagus
Anom as we sat there in the dark pavilion; the screen is the sky.
The god of the shadowplay is Iswara. He paused, went on.
The lamp lies in the eye of the dalang. The fire lies in the
liver, the smoke in the voice. The oil is the fat, the wick the
marrow, the puppet-sticks the sinews . . .
As we walked home I thought how all the puppets in this
Lilliputian drama were matched against each other as in a game
of chess. (I was to find this so in all the plays.) The plot resolved
itself to a simple tug-of-war between the forces of right and left.
A character belonged once and for all to one side or the other,
and stood or fell accordingly. The cards, it seemed, had long ago
been stacked against the demons, for things must come out right
in the end, as surely as dissonance dissolves in concord. Since the
outcome was known in advance, the play lacked tension, and
scenes could be cut or extended at will without affecting in any
way the plot. Puppets or men, the play could be brought at any
moment to a satisfactory conclusion, could be folded up like a
telescope should an unexpected shower of rain make this nec-
THE DESIGN IN THE MUSIC
SEVERAL nights in the week the 16gong club of which Nyo-
man Kal6r was the head met to practice in the Temple of Origins
across the road. There were some thirty musicians in the club,
and thirty more members to help carry the heavy instruments.
Some of the boys and men worked in the fields, others did
nothing at all. They gathered together in the early evening, after
they had bathed in the stream that ran by the house. Sometimes
they rehearsed with the little dancers, but more often it was for
the sake of the music alone, and for hours the air would ring
with swift chiming sounds that rose and fell above the agitated
throb of drums.
At first, as I listened from the house, the music was simply a
delicious confusion, a strangely sensuous and quite unfathomable
art, mysteriously aerial, aeolian, filled with joy and radiance. Each
night as the music started up I experienced the same sensation
of freedom and indescribable freshness. There was none of the
perfume and sultriness of so much music in the East, for there
is nothing purer than the bright clean sound of metal, cool and
ringing and dissolving in the air. Nor was it personal and ro-
mantic, in the manner of our own effusive music, but rather,
sound broken up into beautiful patterns.
It was, however, more than this, as I was to find out. Already
I began to have a feeling of form and elaborate architecture.
Gradually the music revealed itself as being composed, as it
were, of different strata of sound. Over a slow and chantiike bass
that hummed with curious penetration the melody moved in the
middle register, fluid, free, appearing and vanishing in the inces-
sant shimmering arabesques that rang high in the treble as
though beaten out on a thousand little anvils. Gongs of different
sizes punctuated this stream of sound, divided and subdivided it
into sections and inner sections, giving it meter and meaning.
Through all this came the rapid and ever-changing beat of the
drums, throbbing softly, or suddenly ringing out with sharp
accents. They beat in perpetual cross-rhythm, negating the regu-
lar flow of the music, disturbing the balance, adding a tension
and excitement which came to rest only with the cadence that
marked the end of a section in the music.
Tiny cymbals pointed up the rhythm of the drums, emphasized
it with their delicate clash, while the smallest of bells trembled
as they were shaken, adding a final glitter, contributing shrill
overtones that were practically inaudible.
Not long after I became acquainted with Nyoman Kalr, he
had said I was welcome to come and listen as the men practiced,
and the friendly members of the club soon grew used to seeing
me enter the courtyard after dark to sit beside them while they
played. Their instruments were arranged in careful order, like
an orchestra. The deep-voiced jegogans, with their heavy, trem-
bling keys, were ranged at either side, while in the center stood
the soft-toned g'nders that played the melody. At the back were
placed the little gangsas, on which the brilliant ornamental parts
were performed. The drums, the leading instruments, were
placed in front. At a short distance away the tones merged and
blended so that the gamelan sounded like one great instrument.
I sat watching the concentration of the players. Boys of four-
teen, men of twenty or sixty all gave themselves up to the
serious business of rehearsal. The music was rapid, the rhythms
intricate. Yet without effort, with eyes closed, or staring out into
the night, as though each player were in an isolated world of his
own, the men performed their isolated parts with mysterious
unity, fell upon the syncopated accents with hair's-breadth preci-
sion. I wondered at their natural ease, the almost casual way in
which they played. This, I thought, is the way music was meant
to be, blithe, transparent, rejoicing the soul with its eager rhythm
and lovely sound. As I listened to the musicians, watched them,
I could think only of a flock of birds wheeling in the sky, turning
with one accord, now this way, now that, and finally descending
to the trees.
What is the object of this club? I asked one night.
A little pleasure, a little profit, said Nyoman.
For the feasts and celebrations of Kedaton, their own village,
they gave their services, as they were expected to do. In the tem-
ple they accompanied the ceremonial dances before the altars,
played far into the night as they lulled priest and priestess to
sleep with trance-music.
But when their legong dancers appeared in other villages, said
Nyoman, the club expected to be paid. The money went into
the treasury to be saved until the time of galungan, the week of
feasts and holidays. Then was the time for joyous liquidation.
The club bought pigs for a banquet and divided the remainder
of the funds for holiday spending. But often it would be found
that there was only a very small sum to share, for in the past six
months the funds would have melted away on new costumes for
the dancers, new goldleaf for the instruments, or a new set of
headcloths for the members of the club.
For a club must sparkle, said Nyoman, when it appeared.
Especially in another village. Otherwise they would be too
ashamed . . .
The iridescent music of Nyoman's gamelan had its roots in a
distant past, could be traced to the courts of ancient Java, and
from there to a still more ancient India and China. Here today
it had blossomed miraculously into something new. Successive
generations of musicians had recreated it, transformed it, quick-
ening the rhythm and modifying the instruments so that they
rang with greater brilliance. An elaborate technic of interplay
among the different instruments had slowly evolved, a weaving
of voices around and over the melody, enveloping it in a web of
rich though delicate ornamentation. And yet no separate part
was in itself too difficult; all united to form a shimmering, pul-
sating whole, held together by the discipline of long rehearsal.
As for the composers themselves, who could say? Long since
dead, they were, presumably, simple craftsmen. Their names
But how was it possible, I asked, for men to remember through
the years this music of the past? If there were no notes ... In
my country, I said, we write down our music. I showed him a
printed page. He looked at it with curiosity.
There are also written notes in Bali, he said. But few people
can read them, few have ever seen them. A book is rare.
If you could find one for me . .
He thought his friend Lotting, a musician who lived in Kuta,
owned one. He would go one day and see.
He came a week later saying, Here is the book.
It was a bundle of dried palm leaves, trimmed and neatly tied
together. It was old and brittle, and crumbled as I opened it.
Inside, three or four lines of Balinese script stretched across each
strip of leaf.
That is the polcolc, the stalk, the trunk of the music, he said.
It was nothing more than the meager tones of the chant in
the bass, the barest of outlines. Nothing to indicate rhythm,
nothing to indicate melody or the elaborate interweaving of
sounds. A scratch here and there marked the accent of a gong
and that was all.
It was only a reminder, said Nyoman. The rest, he explained,
existed in the mind of the teacher.
Balinese music is based on five tones. In the sacred writings
of the priests these tones have cosmological significance, for they
are linked with the gods of the five directions, North, East,
South, West and Center, where in the middle of a lotus sits
Batara Siva, Creator, Destroyer, Lord God of All. His mystic
color is white; his sacred syllable hing; and the tone for this syl-
lable is ding.
The gods of the other directions have also their colors red,
yellow, blue, black; their syllables and tones dong, d&ig, doang,
dang . . .
But he didn't think, said Nyoman when I asked him, that the
boys and men of the clubs thought of this as they played.
Music is for pleasure, he said. It pleases both gods and men.
In the writings of the priests there were long directions about
the dances and gamelans "necessary" at a temple feast. It was to
be regretted that today these directions were only half carried
out. The gods felt slighted, complained more and more fre-
quently, through tie mouth of the priest or medium in trance . . .
Thus music, I learned, had its "stem," its primary tones
(which it was possible to preserve in writing) from which the
melody expanded and developed as a plant grows out of a seed.
The glittering ornamental parts which gave the music its shim-
mer, its sensuous charm, its movementthese were the "flower
parts," the "blossoms," the Icantilan. (Like a dancer, Nyoman
explained in parenthesis, whose body is the trunk, whose arms
and head are melody, and whose hands form the flowers, which
are the "gilding" of the dance.)
It was in these flower parts, he said, that a teacher showed his
inventiveness, a gamelan its ability. The style was always chang-
ing, although the stem-tones remained the same. When he was
a child, at court, the music had been slower, simpler, softer. But
today it had become very difficult . . .
One evening Nyoman brought to the house a g'nd6r from the
gamelan and began playing the soft love-music from the lgong
dance. A row of thin metal keys hung suspended over a row of
upright bamboo tubes, and trembled at the least touch. As he
sat there on the floor, the keys came to his shoulders. He held a
little mallet in each hand; his fingers were relaxed, and the mal-
lets seemed to fall upon the keys rather than strike them. The
tones were limpid, with a mysterious, prolonged echo from the
tubes, and as he played he seemed to lose himself in the dreami-
ness of the sounds he was producing.
A g'nd6r is delicately adjusted and easily goes off pitch. If the
bamboo resonators are out of tune, the tone is dead, but when
the instrument is perfectly in tune it has a haunting sound, pro-
longed and softly ringing. It is the presence of many of these
instruments that gives a gamelan its floating, disembodied sound.
The g'nd6r was followed by a drum, on which Nyoman began
to explain the different drum strokes. He held it across his knees,
drumming lightly with his fingers you only used the sticks for
the great ceremonial music or the heroic dances. He used the
fingertips, the palm of the hand, the ball of the thumb, striking
the drum sometimes near the middle of the parchment to give
a deep, hollow sound, or near the rim, when it rang out tensely.
The two hands fluttered in endless patterns the soft rapid
throb for the love scenes, light tripping rhythms for more playful
moments, tense, heavy drumming filled with sharp, excited ac-
cents for the battles, the abductions, the appearance of a god or
Another day he brought a little gangsa, to show me how the
flower parts were composed. Soon the house was filled with
gongs, drums, cymbals and flutes, looking like a museum in dis-
order. But I wished for a piano, for I was beginning to feel out
of practice. I was also eager to try out some of the melodies from
the legong gamelan that I had begun to write down, to see how
they would sound.
It was by chance that I heard of one that belonged to a resi-
dent on the island who was willing to let me have the use of it
for a few months. It created a sensation in the village when it
arrived, for nothing like it had ever been seen. It was a shrill
upright; its tones echoed disagreeably against the walls and the
cement floor, but it was surprisingly in tune. The afternoon of
its arrival the house was filled with visitors who came to listen to
the strange new music that was suddenly heard in the village.
They pressed the keys, examined the pedals.
What a great voice! they exclaimed. What a number of
"leaves" (the keys). What are the foot-brakes for?
I showed them the mechanism. I played a melody from the
16gong which I had written down, filling in the gongs with the left
hand. Lost in admiration they left to spread the news in the
The g'nder looked very fragile beside the piano. It was beau-
tifully carved; little animals peered out from a forest of leaves,
and its keys jangled softly as we moved it. The piano was a
monument of cold efficiency. As a ruler is marked, it divided the
octave into twelve precise degrees. The tuning of the g'nd6r was
more irregular. Only some of the tones agreed with the piano,
while others were strange and unaccountable as certain tones in
the voice of a Negro blues-singer. Heard separately, each instru-
ment sounded convincing. When I listened to one after the
other I was deeply disturbed. The piano sounded harsh and out ,
of tune after the softer intonation of the g'nder.
Since the piano had twelve tones to the g'nd6r's five, the mu-
sic I played held no meaning for Nyoman. Tourists have brought
back romantic tales of the Balinese taste for Bach, but this was
quite impossible. Nyoman's reaction to Western music was
typical. It was a complicated noise without order, tempestuous
and baffling in its emotional climaxes, dragging on and on and
Your music is like someone crying, he said. Up and down, up
and down, for no reason at all.
A simple tune on the white keys might catch his interest, but
the harmony of the left hand ruined it for him. His ears could
not filter the sound made by so many notes so closely spaced.
His reaction to rhythm was just as negative. Balinese music is
tense and syncopated like jazz, and when I played a waltz, or an
adagio from some sonata, Nyoman would exclaim-
Where is the beat? There is no beat! Like a bird with a broken
Only my jazz records would he listen to at all. He found the
singing curious, the trumpet of Louis Armstrong fantastic, but
he felt the rhythm at once.
THE GODS DESCEND
IN two days it would be full moon, when the feast of the Tem-
ple of the Ancestors would take place.
For a month the women of Nyoman Kalr's household had
been busy, like the women of every other household in the
village, in preparing the offerings, the endless cakes, fritters,
sweets, and ceremonial objects made of palm leaf. In Nyoman's
house confusion reigned, especially the last few days, for new
costumes were being made for the three little lgong dancers,
and snips and scraps of bright-colored cloth lay scattered about
among the piles of cakes and fruits. Men cut and sewed; over a
table three boys leaned, their faces flecked with goldleaf as they
painted enormous flowers and birds in gold on the costumes of
The morning mist was still in the air on the day of the feast
as one by one the men came out of their doorways and walked
towards the temple, to begin the festive cooking. It was not long
before the courts were in a turmoil. Soon there was the sound
of chopping as groups of men prepared the spice, the sound of
soft scraping as they grated huge mounds of coconut. Above the
laughter and conversation pigs shrieked as they were carried into
the kitchens. Ducks gabbled, while about the court chickens flut-
tered, blood still dripping from their necks. From simmering
caldrons the acrid steam of bitter blimbing leaves mingled with
the bright aroma of frying pork. Cooks stirred, prodded, turned
the spits, carefully lifted from pans wide coils of sausage, to set
them out to cool above the reach of dogs that now flocked in
the courts. In the air there hung the sharp fresh scent of ginger,
lime and tamarind.
All at once, above this cheerful bustle there floated the sound
of tranquil, golden music. The Gamelan with the Great Gongs
had arrived. Exempt from other work, the musicians sat in the
shade of a pavilion playing the music appropriate to ceremonial
occasions the stately Beat of Eight that lasted half an hour; the
Beat of Four, the lively Beat of One. They rested for a while;
began again: Clucking Cock, with its curious rhythm; the tuneful
Snapping Crocodile. Throughout the morning the air was filled
with sound that gladdened the hearts of all, causing the temple
to ring with "festive noise."
In and out the women came with their offerings, to arrange
them by the shrines of the inner temple, until the sun was over-
head and, by what seemed to me a miracle, the cooking was
While in the temple the village elders banqueted ceremoni-
ously, the rest of the food was carefully divided and taken
home, but not before the tiniest of servings, each meticulously
complete with microscopic portions of rice and hashes, shreds
of chicken and all the rest, were set aside for the gods.
A temple feast is a complex ritual, an anniversary, a three-day
honoring of the gods. On the evening of the first day the gods
are invited to descend and enter the shrines prepared for them.
For three days they are feasted and entertained. Before they
leave, advice and favors will be sought; they are then informed
the feast is over, and ceremoniously requested to depart.
Late that night I walked down the road with Made Tantra
to witness the arrival of the gods.
The inner court was filled with silent, expectant men and
women. They sat there on the ground, quietly waiting. Below
the shrines the offerings were spread out, and before them sat
the priest and three elderly priestesses. Incense burned. In the
silence the priest prayed, rang his bell, began a new prayer. Eyes
closed, the priestesses swayed ever so slightly.
From a pavilion came the faint chime of a g'nder. In the
shadow I could barely make out a few instruments from the legong
gamelan. A single musician played softly, waiting for the others
A long, slow chant began, faintly at first, then growing in
volume as others joined in. The priestesses swayed more vio-
lently, tossing their heads from side to side.
Have the gods come? I asked Mad6 after a while.
Not yet; soon, perhaps.
How will you know?
When one of them begins to speak.
But presently the priestesses stopped moving. They sat there
very still. The priest got up.
Mad6 murmured. It did not happen.
Later they will try again. Sometimes you must wait a whole
Outside, in the clearing before the temple, all was light and
movement. A crowd had gathered, waiting for the entertaining
ar/a play to begin. The actors had only just arrived, said Made.
They were still dressing.
We sat down by one of the little gambling-tables where a
noisy card game was in progress. The tiny cards were marked
with symbols, and as Made explained, it seemed very much like
mahjong. The players cheerfully invited me to take a hand. For
the sake of sociability I joined them, but the combinations were
endless, the rules involved, and in a little while I got up, to re-
turn inside the temple.
Once more the priestesses had given themselves up to the soft
chant of women's voices. Soon after we came in there was a
sudden cry from the oldest, and she began to toss wildly about.
In a low intimate voice the priest questioned her. At first she
would not answer, and cried as though her heart were breaking.
Then at last she spoke, and we knew that the gods were here.
Where did the gods actually stay while here on earth? In the
tiniest objects, apparently; in stones, in bits of wood, in little
golden figures. These precious objects were kept locked in the
temple, to be taken out, purified and set in the shrines for the
three days of the feast. At one moment this feast seemed scaled
for the propitiation of giants, at the next it was like a dolls' tea
party. Images and stones were wrapped in the brightest of cloths,
tied with golden sashes, set on silken cushions, while their food
was set out for them in the smallest of dishes. Yet woe betide
the community if the gods felt slighted and grew angry. Now,
suddenly, they were titans; in their anger they spread disaster in
the form of drought and epidemics of plague.
On the afternoon of the second day the dancers from Kesiman
arrived, to perform with masks one of the ancient chronicle plays
that dealt with the early kings of Bali. We watched an episode
from the life of the king of Bedulu, whose mask was a terrifying
combination of human eyes and mouth with the snout and tusks
of a boar.
He had gotten the head of a pig in this way, explained Nyo-
man Kaler, as we stood watching. He had been born strong in
magic power. When he was a child he often amused himself by
cutting off his head and asking his attendant to put it back on
again. One day his head rolled into the river and was carried
away. In desperation the servant cut off the head of a boar and
placed it on his neck ...
But in the play we only saw him defeated by a prince from
Java, whose name was Gaja Mada, Mad Elephant.
On the third night, while in front of the temple the audience
watched the shadowplay, the gods departed.
The departure had been preceded by a ceremonial dance.
While, from the shadows, there came the sound of animated
music from the gamelan, a group of women stepped forth to
dance the gabor, the presentation of offerings of wine, oil, in-
cense. Their shoulders were bare, their breasts bound with woven
scarves, and in their hair were crowded orchids, jasmine, gar-
denias. I recognized Nyoman's two wives among them as they
danced, seriously, tranquilly, as though in their sleep. In and
out of the shrines they wove, disappearing in the shadows, emerg-
ing into the moonlight, until at last they paused before the altars,
where a priestess stood, to fan the essence of the offerings in the
direction of the gods.
It was close to dawn when, in the now almost deserted court-
yard, the priestess fell once more in trance. In a hoarse, exhausted
voice she announced the presence of the god. It was the god now
speaking. There was a pause. The god called attention to the
poor condition of the temple. It was in need of repair. Another
pause. The priest now asked advice about certain village affairs.
What must the offerings be for the next feast? Back and forth
the voices went, until at last the priestess grew silent and would
talk no more. In the dim light of early morning she woke, looked
dazedly around, and we knew the gods had left.
THE house was now forever filled with visitors, who wandered
in at all times of the day, to chat, or sit quietly, hoping I might
be moved to play the phonograph. Mad6 Tantra had given me
a monkey, which I kept chained to the veranda post; Gusti had
brought me a white cockatoo. Its wings were clipped, and it
roamed the house, fought with the monkey, or sat on the back
of my chair at lunch talking softly to itself, or raising its yellow
crest in sudden excitement.
When strangers met at my house they were uneasy until each
had discovered the other's caste. Was the other a Brahman? A
Satrya? Or a plain Sudra or commoner like himself? For although
the ancient caste system was borne easily enough these days,
there were still formalities in everyday life which must be care-
Such as the question of seating.
What distinguished my simple house as having been designed
for a man of rank was the veranda, which was built on two
different levels. A whole etiquette revealed itself in the way
When Ida Bagus Anom, the grandson of the old priest for
whom the "Mountain of Flowers" had been built, came to visit
with Mad Tantra he sat on the lower step, while Mad6 sat
below, on the ground. Since Ida Bagus was a Brahman he could
actually have sat level with me, but he was twelve years younger,
and as he was well brought up he was aware he owed me the
respect of youth. When Sarda, who was a Sudra, came to say
the car was waiting he sat on the lower step if no one was there
of higher caste. Otherwise he might sit below, but since he was
proud and independent, he preferred to walk around to the back
and sit with Gusti. Nyoman Kal6r, who was also a Sudra, but
the head of the banjar, chose the upper step the first night he
came. He was paying me sufficient respect for I was still on a
higher level, in a chair, while he sat on the floor at my feet. As
we became intimate I insisted he sit in a chair, which flattered
but did not discompose him. One day as we sat together, a tall
young man strode in, came up the steps and handed me a note
from the Controlleur in Den Pasar. He was only a government
clerk, but he was an Anak Agung, a prince, and Nyoman, who
knew him, at once got out of his chair and sat down on the
For this reason strangers politely inquired of each other their
caste immediately they met. In high, formal Balinese they asked
the question, Where do you sit? Should the caste difference be
not too great, conversation would continue in this formal lan-
guage. But if a prince found himself talking to a Sudra he would
immediately use the rough 'low" dialect, while the other con-
tinued to address him in sweet flowery phrases, constructed, to
the best of his ability, in the elliptical syntax of 'Tiigh."
In the family there were also four levels. Children had their
titles: Wayan, eldest-born, Nyoman, Mad6 and Ketut, the
What happens with a fifth child? I asked Nyoman Kal6r.
You begin again, he answered.
Sarda could no longer work for me, for he wished to return
to his home near Bulel&ig. Mad6 Tantra suggested a friend of
his to take Sarda's place. We are like brothers, he said. He wears
my clothes and I wear his. This is his ring, he said, showing me
Kesyur was several years older than Mad6 Tantra. He had a
dash about him, a careless elegance, and a moody temper sulky
one moment, eager the next which seemed to have won him a
widespread reputation as a charmer. Even in remote villages the
girls in the marketplace would cry out as we stopped, Kesyur!
Kesyur is here! These cries of joy he answered in an offhand
manner or ignored altogether, but I felt he was not annoyed.
The pawnshop figured prominently in his life. I had not
known him two weeks before he asked for a loan. His banjar
was giving a feast; hfe must have the tailor make him a new coat,
and get his ring out from the pawnshop. Two days after the
feast the ring was back where it belonged. In fact, all of Kesyur's
property, his bicycle, sarongs and the kris that had been his
father's, remained there most of the time.
In that way they can't be stolen, he explained.
One morning he came in looking slightly preoccupied.
What's the matter, Kesyur? You look worried.
A little troubled, but also a little pleased . . .
He sat down on the veranda. Thoughtfully, systematically, he
pulled out each finger of the right hand until he heard the bones
click faintly. It's like this, he said. Once more he paused, to per-
form the same operation on the left hand.
It seemed that between the two adjoining banjars of his village
there was great rivalry. Sometime back the young men of Mogan
(Kesyur's banjar) had built a new clubhouse. The men of Pagan
(the other) immediately began to build one which was larger.
The time had now come for the consecrations.
Two days ago, said Kesyur, the men of Mogan slaughtered the
largest pig they could find for the feast. They nailed the head
to the clubhouse with pride. But Pagan has shamed them by
slaughtering a goat! Last night the men of Mogan met, and de-
cided that they will kill a water buffalo, to put an end to this
competition. But the head of Kesyur's village has forbidden this
So, said Kesyur, Mogan will give a dazzling series of dances
and plays. For a week there will be shadowplays, gandrung
dances, arja plays all of the best! Let Pagan try to outdo that!
But the matter has not rested there, for the men of Pagan
have sent word that they will attend all these performances
wearing golden shoes.
Like one time in Buleleng, said Kesyur. All the men of one
club appeared at galungan-time on golden bicycles. Frames, rims,
even the spokes and pedals all had been covered with gold. It
was handsome! But if the men of Pagan appear in gold shoes
Mogan will retaliate next galungan by dressing entirely in white.
Then we shall have won in the end, said Kesyur triumphantly,
for what is brighter than white?
I agreed, although I wondered how white cotton could take
precedence over goldleaf, until I remembered that white is the
holy color, symbol of purity, worn by the priests. No matter how
stained the cloth, there was always that to be said about it, there
was nothing brighter. I asked when the performances were to
begin. Tomorrow, he answered, adding that his banjar invited me.
I arrived next evening to find a chair and table laden with
sweets, cigarettes and pink soda placed for my comfort on a plat-
form inside the clubhouse. A large crowd watched the perform-
ance. I looked in vain for the golden shoes, and asked Kesyur
about the matter. He seemed very happy as he answered,
Empty talk! They are wearing only gold headcloths, which
they have had since last year . . .
PORTRAIT OF A PRINCE
KESYUR came from Saba, a village near the sea some sixty
miles away, where I had seen the little legong dancers with Sarda.
One day I mentioned this, and he spoke proudly,
My rajah spends great sums on his dancers. Their headdresses
are pure gold. There are none to compare!
But when I asked him if it were true his prince was in love
with one of them he said briefly it "could be" and changed the
One evening we drove by a temple near Saba, where crowds
of people outside indicated a performance. My rajah's 16gong!
cried Kesyur, stopping the car with a jolt. We pushed through
the throng; a dance was in full progress. On a mat in front of
the musicians sat the Anak Agung with a drum across his knees.
He was absorbed as before, and I saw him laugh with pleasure as
a dancer caught a syncopated accent with beautiful accuracy.
The Anak Agung was soon aware of my presence. He recog-
nized Kesyur, and when the performance was over he came up.
After Kesyur had accounted for me I told him how much I
admired his dancers. He smiled.
Very poor! But perhaps in a year's time . . ,
He invited me to return with him to the palace. There was
an eagerness about him that I thought completely charming, and
I was sorry I was not free to accept. I said I should like to come
to see him very soon.
On the way home Kesyur told me a little about the royal
family. They were related to the most highborn Dwa Agung,
ruler of Karangasem, and owned the land south of Klungkung to
the sea. Once the family had been rich. But times were bad
today, for their income derived largely from their ricefields.
These had been dry for years; the stream from the mountains
which once supplied their irrigation had been diverted in a com-
pletely different direction by a government-built dam.
Where does the Anak Agung find money to spend on his
dancers? I asked.
Kesyur laughed. He plays the cockfights, he said.
One afternoon we drove to Saba and stopped the car before
the palace gates. In the courtyard fruit-trees and flowering shrubs
were set in order. The rusty chassis of a car stood in one corner;
in the center was a pool, with a fountain which no longer played.
A servant approached to say that His Highness was in the far
We had taken the Anak Agung unawares, for as we came up
to the veranda we saw him descend from a stepladder, and wipe
his hand on his sarong, which was all he wore, tucked high
around his waist. He greeted me, however, with warmth and
Welcome, he said. Although I am in the midst of work. I am
He led me up into the pavilion. It was open on three sides,
but towards the back was a door, and over the door was a half-
finished fresco. It was a crowded scene from the shadowplay,
depicting in lacquer and gold a terrific battle between gods and
demons. We sat down at a table, Kesyur taking his place at our
Tea? Brandy? Before I could answer he had called out to a
servant. He was perhaps thirty, short, robust, with glowing eyes
and a brusque, impulsive voice. I felt at ease with him at once,
won by his sudden smile.
Attendants entered the pavilion, begging forgiveness, with
trays piled high with fruit. Bottles of raspberry soda, rum and
arac completed the refreshments. Begging forgiveness again for
setting these down before us, the attendants backed away, to sit
on the floor at the edge of the pavilion.
The Anak Agung wanted to know about America. Were there
taxes? Was there a queen? Was it true there were white servants?
Then he asked about the temples and the gods. What were
our offerings like? Our priests?
I answered as best I could.
We sat there, tearing off the crimson skin of a lychee or break-
ing open a mangosteen. We spat the pips on the floor, where
they were immediately gathered by an attendant who, after ask-
ing permission, carried the royal discard in his hands to throw
outside the gate.
Kesyur spoke up, to tell about the piano. But the Anak Agung
knew all about it.
Orgel, he said. I saw one in Java. I shouldn't want one; I pre-
fer my gamelan . . .
I said that an advantage of the piano was that it took only
But there are no drums! he said. How can music live without
the drums? It is like the beat of the heart. It is the blood run-
ning in the veins.
He rose with me when I got up to go, begging me not to
leave, but spend at least the night. Tomorrow I should watch
him rehearse his 16gong dancers. I should have done so willingly
were it not for the thought of my house wide open, with only
Gusti to guard it. We finally departed, though not before the
Anak Agung had asked me if I would take his picture. He disap-
peared, to return in a white jacket with a high collar and a faded
sun helmet. His face turned blank and funereal as he stood there
waiting. But with the click of the shutter his smile returned, and
he walked with me to the car, followed by a servant bearing a
basket of lychees and emerald-skinned pomelos. His gardens
were famed for these, said Kesyur later, especially the lychees.
These were a sure sign of favor, for almost all the trees on the
island belonged to the Chinese, who held them under contract,
and would not sell a cutting at any price.
It was no secret that Anak Agung Bagus was bringing his
house to final ruin with his extravagances. He bet wildly at
cockfights, and when he won he simply squandered his money.
When it was not on his dancers it was for something else; he
would dash from one end of the island to the other in a delapi-
dated Chevrolet in search of a trained turtledove, for which he
would pay a hundred guilders if he thought the song of the
bird was worth it.
When he lost, one more ricefield would be put up for sale.
His older brother complained so bitterly at the government office
that the Controlleur had put the Anak Agung under oath to give
up cockfighting. It was like forbidding a fish to swim, a bird to
sing. He would stop for a while, but sooner or later I would find
him at some great fight, miles from Saba, squatting with the
rest, and trying to look incognito, with several followers to carry
his vicious-looking birds and his bag of silver ringgits. When we
met, he could not keep from confiding in glee if he had won.
I could tell when disaster had fallen by his tragic silence, and
the utter impossibility of bringing a smile to his face.
The palace was large and rambling, and badly run to seed.
The gate and front courts were still imposing, though overgrown
with grass and ferns, but behind the wall that hid the older part
of the palace from view things were in a bad state of repair.
Pavilions leaned crazily; thatch had worn thin; carved and gilded
pillars were bored by beetles and gnawed by rats. Chickens roosted
at night on lacquered crossbeams, and all day long the dogs wan-
dered about, snatching unguarded morsels of food from the
kitchens, and howling at the sight of a stranger. Geese descended
the palace steps at dawn, stately and hostile, and ascended again
at dusk, piercing the air with their loud, unmusical notes.
As our friendship grew the Anak Agung's gifts (without which
I could never depart) became more personal a ring; a handsome
fighting-cock; a cutting from one of his precious lychee trees.
And always three or four gurami-fish fresh from the water, still
twitching on the thong that held them by the gills.
These fish were fat and delicious, and were raised in an artifi-
cial pond that lay in the park behind the palace. Once this had
been a fine garden, but now hibiscus, gardenia, jasmine and
poinsettia fought among themselves beneath the confusion of
palms. Orchids drooped from boughs, and the ground was black
and slippery. The pond had a little pleasure pavilion in the
center, connected to the land by a rickety bamboo bridge, and
here the Anak Agung often took his siesta, alone or accompanied.
One day we fished.
The surface of the pond was without a ripple, and reflected
every leaf from the overhanging trees. We stood there staring
at the water, while a boy tossed scarlet hibiscus into the pool.
They floated, and soon the fish began to rise and drag them
under. Nets were thrown; we picked the best and threw the
others back. Suddenly the Anak Agung had an idea. His fishing
rod was brought, and he took a fish, hooked it and dropped it
in the water. For a moment he played it; his eyes shone with
excitement. But all at once the fish was off the hook and gone.
We stood in silent sympathy while the Anak Agung recovered,
and returned to the palace with the other fish safe inside a basket.
He had inherited his warmth from his mother. Agung Biang
weighed two hundred and fifty pounds; she had an adorable
smile, and eyes that could become tender and wistful. Some-
times she placed a few jasmine blossoms in her gray hair, but
otherwise she paid little heed to her appearance, for she wore
nothing but a wide strip of batik, carelessly tucked around her
waist and falling to her feet. It was always on the verge of com-
ing undone; every five minutes it would work loose, but with a
poise that was regal indeed she would pull the cloth up an inch
and tighten it once more.
She never failed to give me an intimate and maternal welcome
when I arrived, putting one vast bare arm about my neck and
telling me I was her son, while the other hand felt the texture
of my shirt, or slipped inside to gently caress my flesh. Once
more the fingertips would return to the cloth, run lightly over it.
Silk, she would say approvingly, real silk. Will you give it to me?
But I knew from the remote and dreamy tone of her voice that
she did not want it in the least, that the question was simply to
test my affection.
No, Agung Biang. Your child would catch cold driving home
without a shirt. Besides, what would you do with it? It couldn't
possibly fit you.
She laughed, and would say, But you must give your mother
something, bring her something from Den Pasar the next time
What would Agung Biang like?
She thought. Some perfume perhaps, or a cake of scented
soap. Or one of those new celluloid flowers in the Japan store.
Then she would carefully peel a tangerine and put the sections
into my mouth one by one.
Agung Biang supervised the kitchens herself. These were a
group of pavilions in one of the inner courts, where pigs ran in
and out among the piles of coconuts and mats of fish spread out
to dry in the sun. She did nothing so unregal as to cook, but she
directed the cooks, and assembled and spiced the more compli-
cated dishes. I loved to watch her, now frowning and absorbed.
Around her, girls grated piles of coconut, while trembling old
men peeled and chopped shallots and garlic, chilis and aromatic
roots and ground them to a paste. With a severe and critical air
she smelt or tasted the sauces and hashes, adding palm-sugar,
fish-paste, verbena or whatever seemed needed to give that final
flavor. With a wide and noble gesture she refused badly pre-
pared coconut-milk or a scrawny chicken. With noisy indigna-
tion she condemned a duck-egg that was found to be not quite
fresh. And when at last the dishes were finally prepared she
would invite me, as I sat there looking on, to taste and comment.
Was there enough salt? she would ask earnestly. Was it sharp
enough? Perhaps a little more ginger, or a squeeze more of lime
Her dishes were endless: fish baked in banana leaves; anteater
stewed and served in a bamboo tube; lobster in a sauce of coco-
nut-cream; sea turtle in a sauce of crushed peanuts; skewers of
birds no larger than bumblebees (could they be hummingbirds? I
wondered, as I took three at one bite) and, strangest of all, small
green packages like cigarettes which, when unrolled, were found
to contain a mixture of toasted coconut and the larvae of dragon-
This repast, a strange blend of Arabian Nights and Midsum-
mer Night's Dream, would appear after a morning of 16gong
practice. For two hours Gusti Bagus rehearsed the children to
the point of exhaustion. He sat on the floor, his drum in his lap,
his gaze fixed on the dancers. Suddenly he would jump up to
correct a position, straighten a shoulder or turn a head a little
more to the side. Once more he took up the drum. When at
last the lesson came to an end the children disappeared (often
to return in the late afternoon for another two hours), while we
retired to another pavilion for lunch. Around us the courtyard
glared in the fierce light of the sun, now directly overhead.
Languor descended; voices spoke softly. There was that strange
noonday quiet, that moment of utter timelessness, when all life
Now, after we had eaten, I would walk through the park to
the pavilion on the pond, which was given to me each time I
came. Surrounded by water in this forgotten park, in this far
island of friendly and mysterious people this seemed the final
exquisite isolation. In the stillness two turtledoves called and
answered monotonously. I read until I fell asleep.
The three little legong dancers of Saba were composed of a
pair, who played the leading roles, and a third, the chondoog or
attendant, who introduced them, handed them their fans, and
played the minor parts, such as the abducted princess in the tale
of Lasem, or the raven that flies before his face, foretelling his
death. The pair should resemble each other in beauty, form,
complexion, said Gusti Bagus, as closely as possible. They should
match "like two peas, like twin breasts." But the beauty of the
chondong should be as different as night from day.
And indeed, as I watched the dance unfold, I thought how
much the charm of the dance depended on the play of duplica-
tion and contrast. At the opening, before the story "emerged"
the two children began to move as though, by some optical illu-
sion, they were the double projection of a single image. From
the tip of the finger, the tilt of the head, down to the position
and angle of the foot, their movements were identical. Suddenly
they would break away, to go off in opposite directions. They
returned, but now their gestures reflected, as though one were
mirroring the other. As the story began, characters emerged, yet
with utmost delicacy, for even the most dramatic gesture was
done with stylized restraint. A fluid motion of the hand was
sorrow and weeping; Lasem was killed with the tap of the fan
and a little shove.
But when the chondong took up a pair of gilded wings to
become the raven, the drumming grew turbulent and she danced
with violence. She created a strange atmosphere of brilliance and
somber mystery. She was a bird in a storm, soaring against the
wind as her wings inclined first one way then another.
I never tired of watching these rehearsals, of watching the
miraculous transmission of energy from the Anak Agung to the
children. His restless nature found expression in feverish tempos
and violent accents, and I thought he would burn them out with
his intensity, his desire for perfection. Yet they responded like
a flash to the slightest change of his drumbeat. They seemed as
completely under his control as though they were shadow-pup-
pets and he the operator.
As I watched I remembered Sarda's remark about the prince's
love for the chondong. She had a wild beauty that I could easily
imagine might trouble him. She was a year older than the others,
and in another year would be no longer a child. Her manner was
grave, and when she was not dancing she sat fingering her ring,
her eyes downcast, hidden beneath long lashes. But the only
indication of the Anak Agung's infatuation was the loving care
he put in correcting her gestures, the relentless way in which he
led her for the tenth time through a long and exhausting passage.
ONE afternoon I returned from Saba where I had been staying
for a few days, to find the house locked and deserted. I had no
key, and my indignation rose as I waited until the koki finally
Tab6 tuan, she said with revolting sweetness.
Where is Gusti? I asked crossly.
There was a look of quiet triumph on her face as she prepared
to tell me the worst.
That Gusti? He had gone on a binge. He had been drunk for
two days on my gin. Yesterday he set off the fireworks I had
been saving. They went all over into the kitchen, out into the
ricefields. She described the course of a rocket traveling along
the ground. She had fled . . .
When Gusti finally came in he had nothing to say. I fired
him, not for this sin, but because I was suddenly quite bored
with him, his laziness, his dullness which not even this escapade
could brighten. I said I would not need him any longer, and in
a gentle voice he answered, Good, tuan, and left.
The koki was delighted. I even heard her singing in the
kitchen, in a cracked, Chinese voice, a monotonous phrase from
a Malayan song;
When the civet grows blind
The chicken is lighthearted;
When the cat loses its teeth
The mouse grows bold.
I got a boy from the hotel, a tall brisk lad who put a high
polish on the glasses and served dinner with a flourish. He folded
the napkin into a bishop's mitre, and dropped a slice of lemon in
the finger bowl. He was part Javanese, and whether because of
his elegance or his temperament, there were no more quarrels
in the back of the house. I wouldn't say that romance stirred
within the koki's dark interior; that would be like expecting a
blossom from an umbrella handle. Yet there was a faint warmth
about her, like a pebble left exposed for a little while in the
sun, when she saw Pugog remove stains from the silver, clean
out the storeroom and give a new sense of order to the house.
But the koki was to go too, soon afterwards, because of her
impossible behavior towards Nyoman Kaler and others who came
daily to see me. Was it jealousy, or plain bad temper? In any
case she could not get along with Balinese. She resented their
freedom about the place; in the Dutch houses where she had
worked, the scene (I knew) was quite different; there natives
entered by the back door only. She could be rude and vent her
Mohammedan dislike with impunity, while they in turn would
accept it indifferently, as part of the established and already
familiar regime of colonization.
But here in my house they came as friends, and I found her
ways intolerable. The climax came after a little feast, when I had
invited Nyoman and several boys and men from the gamelan for
a roast pig. Pork was as repulsive to her as to an orthodox Jew,
and for two days she went about, black as thunder, refusing to
wash up or even touch her defiled pots and pans and making
sharp comments on people as they went in and out of the house.
She left out nothing; she dwelt on their habits, their clothes,
their heathenishness, their uncircumcision. When Nyoman at
last said he would no longer come to the house while she was
there, I let her know that she must leave. She went back to work
in a Dutch house. From time to time I saw her in the market in
town. Then she would call out, her face all smiles,
Tab6 tuan! What is the news?
Pugog brought his cousin Made Reteg to take her place. It
was like the sun after a month of clouds. She was young, and she
sang as she worked, and she knew everyone who came to the
house. She was a little shy at first, and she was both amused and
confused at the idea of having to cook for me, for her only
experience had been when she had worked (here she was rather
vague) in the household of Abdul Bey, a Bombay merchant in
Den Pasar. We now settled down to an alimentation which was
constantly filled with surprise, for it was part Javanese, part
Balinese, with an occasional Chinese dish and now and then an
extraordinary Moslem dessert, poetically flavored with rose-water.
I have always had a keen curiosity about food and cooking,
and I would sit on the edge of the veranda making notes as Reteg
prepared some stew or fragrant lawar or hash. One was especially
rich and elusive in flavor.
She took a chicken and split it in half, and grilled it over the
coals to a light brown. Then she tore the meat into the finest
shreds. These she mixed with thin coconut shavings and crushed
them together in a deep bowl, so that the oil from the coconut
permeated the meat. Then she added the spice, a paste of young
ginger, onion, red peppers and a dash of fish-paste that had been
gently fried in new coconut-oil. Over this she poured freshly
pressed coconut-milk, thick as cream. The mixture was then
kneaded to a smooth mass and finished with lime juice.
It was altogether delicious. You ate a little at a time, together
with a spoon of rice. But Made insisted I must use my hand, I
must taste my hand as I ate. It was true; the food was so deli-
cately spiced, so fresh that if you used fork or spoon the flavor
was killed at once by the chill and corrosive taste of silver.
Pugog, remembering the fine and formal dinners at the hotel,
did not think these menus, which I found so fascinating in their
unpredictable flavors, altogether worthy of me. For dinner he
invented strange soups, into which he poured sweet vermouth.
He made astonishing sauces to pour over the fish, and taught
Reteg how to bake an elaborate cake. Then he suggested that
perhaps I might like, as most of the residents did, to eat in the
evening "out of tins/' I already knew the dismal suppers of
sardines, tinned ham, tinned butter, cheese and jam, that kept
alive morale but filled the spirit with gloom. They were, more-
over, economically absurd, since for the price of one tin of
bacon you could buy five chickens or a small pig. I had recently
discovered that a six-weeks' pig roasted on the spit was a gour-
met's feast, for old Rewah and Nyoman had roasted one for
me at the house some time before, thus precipitating the koki's
crisis of temper.
R6wah was the "caretaker" who had attached himself to the
household the first day, but who did nothing more than sweep
the yard each morning (clearing it of two leaves that had fallen
from the papayas in the night) and once again in the evening.
He had come as unobtrusively as the dog, and his presence had
immediately been taken for granted by Gusti and the koki. He
wants to watch the house, said Gusti when Rewah first appeared,
to begin sweeping after a silent bow, without a word from any-
one, and it is true I actually did find him once or twice, when I
came in late at night, lying on the veranda floor with the blanket
drawn over his head, sleeping so prof oundly that even the rasping
sound of the door as I opened it failed to rouse him.
He and Nyoman had spent an afternoon preparing the pig,
stuffing it with aromatic leaves and spice. They rubbed the skin
yellow with turmeric, and as they turned the pig slowly on its
pole they basted it every few minutes with coconut-oil. The fire of
coconut-husks was kept in embers and not allowed to blaze, and
while Made Tantra sat gently fanning the coals, Kesyur judi-
ciously replenished the fire around the edges. Meanwhile other
helpers were engaged in preparing the classic accompaniments:
rice, of course; pepahit a "bitter" dish of stewed blimbing leaves
to counteract the richness of the pig; sausage, made from the
pig's blood ? and urab, a hash of finely mixed coconut, green
papaya, the chopped liver and the heart.
At last the pig was pronounced done to a turn. It was placed
on a banana leaf in a long wooden platter. The skin was brittle
as thin glass and the meat, perfumed beyond words from the
spice, melted on the tongue.
The labor involved in this little feast seemed less of an effort
than when Gusti opened a tin of bacon.
Imperceptibly, another helper had attached himself to the
household. This was Chetig, a friend of Mad6 Tantra's, who
played g'nd6r in the front row of the legong gamelan. I first
became acquainted with him when he came in uninvited one
evening with Tantra and three other boys, to sit on the veranda
and make music.
What prompted this little serenade I never knew. It was the
softest, most nocturnal of music. There was a bamboo flute, a
drum, little cymbals, and a tremulous, one-stringed zither of
bamboo to beat time. For an hour they played the charming and
plaintive tunes from the popular arja operetta.
What tune is that? I asked when they stopped.
Sinom; for the princess when she parts the curtains. They
began again, this time Durma, when the prince steps out.
An arja cast, it appeared, was made up of clearly defined char-
acter types; princess and maidservant, false princess and step-
mother; prince and minister, pretender or usurper and minister,
attendants all balanced like a set of chessmen, a deck of cards.
Each had his (or her) particular music, suitable to his character.
Prince and princess sang in a "small" voice, high and sweet;
ministers and attendants sang in the "middle" or "deep" voice.
We sat there talking; soon the veranda was littered with cigarette
stubs and bottles of Orange Crush.
There is arja tonight in Kasiman, said Chetig. If tuan cared
to come . . .
It looked like rain, I thought. The air was damp, and the
moon was sunk in clouds. But Kasiman was only a mile away,
and after putting the instruments in the house and locking the
door we set out down the road.
At Kasiman a solid wall of people surrounded the clearing that
had been prepared for the actors near the marketplace. I man-
aged to break through to the inside. At one end hung a pair of
curtains; at the other sat the musicians. Two air-pressure lamps
hung down the middle, lighting up the faces which rose around
the clearing in tiers. Around the edge, forever inching forward,
each hoping to get a better view, sat an unbroken line of naked
infants, solemn, patient, wide-awake.
The swift, light music had already begun. Two flutes rose
high above the rapid, fluttering drums, now one ahead, now the
other, clashing at times in casual discord, dissolving again in the
purest of unisons. All at once there was the sound of singing;
the first actor was announcing himself. The curtains quivered,
opened, closed again, as though the actor could not bring him-
self to appear. At last they parted; the mantri, the prime minis-
ter, stepped forth; the play had begun.
What is the play? I asked Mad6 Tantra.
It's not yet certain, he replied. The story has not emerged.
But it was not the prime minister after all, but his patih, the
forerunner. He danced gravely the dance of a small official im-
pressed with his own importance. His face was a mask of pomp-
ous indignation. Suddenly there was the sound of another voice
from behind the curtains, deeper, darker in color. Now indeed it
was the mantri, for the patih immediately deferred. With ele-
gance the mantri danced the length of the stage and back, fol-
lowed by the patih, now slightly breathless. At last they
stopped; a dialogue began.
This time I asked Chetig, What is the play?
It's still not clear, he replied doubtfully. In a little while,
perhaps . . .
And now from behind the curtains there rose a high clear
voice, feminine, yet strangely sexless and remote. A young girl
stepped out. The prince! said Made.
Clad in a tunic of white and a cape of gold, with a headdress
of flowers, she slowly advanced from the shadow into the light.
Her delicate, faintly Mongolian face was a mask of grave beauty,
and as she sang her voice was both harsh and sweet, something
in the manner of Chinese singing. At the same time there were
rapid little embellishments in her voice, light, effortless, that
recalled the Arab way of singing. High above, the flutes wove
around her song, embroidering on the melody. The audience
watched and listened in utter pleasure.
She came at last to the center of the stage. The ministers
approached and kneeled. One spoke.
I bow at the feet of my lord. Proceed to speak, high prince
Ah, Koripan! said Chetig.
The locale of the play has been established for all. But is it
to be the story of the prince of Koripan who was born a tiger?
Or perhaps the one who was born a frog? The audience waits,
listening to one formal speech of reverence unfold out of an-
other. Slowly the plot emerges. It is the tale of two enemy
princes, rivals for the love of the princess of Daha. There is also
a cruel stepmother and an ugly stepsister. But all know that be-
fore dawn wrongs will be righted. Prabangsa will be slain, and
Koripan will marry the true princess.
The actors left the stage. The play proceeded.
Or rather, returned to a new beginning. Once more a voice was
heard behind the curtains; once more they quivered, parted.
An oflEcial steps out. It is the forerunner of the mantri who
precedes prince Prabangsa. We are shown another suit in the
deck of cards. The only difference is that now the ministers are
plainly buffoons, while the part of the prince is played by a
heavy man, dark and threatening. The ministers kneel; the man-
I bow at the feet of my lord. Proceed to speak, Your High-
ness . . .
Again the stage was bare. It was time for the princess. But
first her maidservant, the chondong, must precede her, prepare
us for her luminous appearance. A frail falsetto voice was heard.
All night have I watched and waited. Day is here.
Awake, sweet lady, rise. Be pleased to come forth, step this
way . . .
Through the curtains glided an elegant figure, lithe and
narrow-waisted. Her movements were seductive, her glance was
melting, but something was wrong, something ever so slightly
exaggerated. Her headdress was the least bit askew; the trailing
skirt kept getting in the way. In a moment it was clear that the
dancer was a youth, sly and sedate, who now proceeded to give
a restrained but acute burlesque of the chondong part in the
legong dance in a way that was found hilarious, so hilarious that
the entrance of the princess herself was completely obscured.
But at this moment there was a sudden gust of wind, a few
drops of rain.
Rain! called out the audience. The rain is coming!
They stirred, looked up. But in a moment it had stopped.
Drums beat softly; flutes played on. The princess sang in utter
Alone, forgotten, cruelly abused . . .
Moved by the sadness of the situation, the onlookers failed to
find it strange in the least that the princess was a man with a
thin drooping mustache. This was the star, long famous for his
finely trained voice, his grace, his special gift for female roles.
For it was not the plot that held the audience but the per-
formancethe creation of a character by means of beautiful
gesture, elegance of posture and movement, flexibility of voice
and the romantic glitter in the lamplight of stiff and sequined
costume. In this theater of the imagination, free of scenery or
properties, the actual sex of the performer was forgotten. Or,
when transposed, served only to intensify the delineation of
character. Thus a young girl, it had recently been discovered,
could give the final touch of delicate grace to the portrayal of a
prince of the alus, the "gentle-serene" type; while a man no
longer young, but widely known for his finished and classical
style, could give a far more feminine performance than any girl.
It was expected that the play would last till dawn. But by
three o'clock, soon after the entrance of the stepmother and her
clod of a daughter, it was evident that at any moment the rain
would fall in earnest. Already people were leaving. It was de-
cided to bring the performance to an end. Two hours were
smoothly condensed into ten minutes; false princess was beaten
with branches; Prabangsa was slain. Hearts were trumps, and
with the sudden downpour of rain the last trick had been taken.
A few nights later I witnessed another play, this time by the
famous company of Batuan. The night was clear, and I sat till
the end taking notes.
The prince of Koripan, said Chetig, wishes to take home his
bride the princess of Daha. But her brother forbids this, for the
day is inauspicious and the bride is pregnant. The prince insists
however, and they set forth with their attendants. Their way lies
through a deep forest (a papaya tree was planted in the center
of the stage) and as it is night they lie down to rest.
In this forest lives a demon with her daughter. (They both
wear demon-masks, and look quite terrifying.) The daughter
tells in whining tones of how she dreamt the night before of the
handsome prince Koripan. She is infatuated. As she wanders
through the forest, playing tricks on innocent people (this was
a rather grimly obscene bit of comedy), she comes all at once
upon Koripan and his bride. With a spell she puts them to
sleep and approaches.
Now she undresses the princess and puts on her clothes. She
tears the foetus from her (a doll had been concealed in the
clothes of the princess) and places it inside her own body. She
throws the princess in a ravine, discards her demon-mask and
lies down beside the prince. He wakes; he asks, astonished,
Who is this beside me, with unfamiliar face?
Your bride, Galuh Daha.
But why have the features of my bride changed so?
Alas, the air is evil, the forest is bewitched.
They set out for Koripan. (The tree is removed.) At the
palace the marriage is celebrated with many offerings.
Meanwhile the princess succeeds in reaching the court. At-
tendants find her weeping outside the palace gates, and she tells
them she is the true bride of their prince. The preposterous
story is carried inside, and she is ordered beaten to death. Now
she is thrashed cruelly with branches. Singing the saddest of
songs she sinks to the ground; the audience is filled with pity.
But at the point of death she is saved by the timely arrival of
her brother. In rage he seeks the prince.
Who is this, whom you have taken as bride?
My true wife, the princess of Daha.
Indeed not! You have married a demon! My sister stands
bound outside the palace gates.
But Koripan cannot believe it. Back and forth the harsh, de-
fiant voices travel. Neither yields.
At last the prince of Koripan calls his demon bride and asks
her if she recognizes her brother. She is not clever enough to
dissemble. In a new burst of fury the prince takes her by the
arm, drags her to the center of the stage, beating her so that the
branches whistle through the air. He throws her down, orders
her killed at once. He tenderly unties the true princess, singing
his love. Before the actors have left the stage the audience has
risen and is on its way home.
Another night, as I stood watching with Mad6 Tantra, the
play was half over before he could tell me the plot. At last he
exclaimed, Now I know! They have just mentioned fried
onions . . .
Once I left Chetig and Tantra looking on, and went home,
for the play was unusually late in getting started. The next
morning when the two came in I asked about the performance.
Oh, it was excellent We stayed till dawn.
What was the story?
Chetig shook his head. The story never emerged.
But how could you stay till the end?
The clowns were so very funny . . .
In the daytime Chetig would come to visit, but sooner or
later he was to be found by the kitchen door, eagerly polishing
spoons or wiping lamp chimneys, or in the house dusting once
more the piano. This was for him the crowning jewel in a house
of treasures. He never seemed to tire of standing before it pick-
ing out melodies. The strange tuning of the piano did not seem
to bother him at all, and he was very quick about finding his
way among the keys.
For the past month I had been at work making a complete
"score" of the music to the long dance of king Lasem as the
club of Kedaton played it the slow opening music, the love-
music, the farewell scene, the raven-music, the battle-music.
I had begun by writing the "trunk-tones" and the g'nd6r mel-
ody, then the accents of the drums, gongs and cymbals. Nyoman
had all the patience in the world. We would work for an hour
or so each morning or late afternoon, to relax afterwards by driv-
ing down to the sea with Kesyur and Chetig or Tantra for a
swim. As I wrote down the melody, watched it unfold, I was
continually delighted by the form, the balance, the way one
section followed so logically another. It seemed impossible to
believe that so much beauty could be achieved with a scale of
only five tones.
But the real work began when I turned to the "flowers" in the
music. Chetig, who belonged to the gangsa players of the club,
decided to teach me himself.
Early one morning, while it was still cool, he and Kejir, his
inseparable friend, brought in two gangsas and set them down
near the piano. It took two to play these flower-patterns, for
there were two "voices" that ran in counterpoint two different
rhythms, positive and negative, that fitted together like parts of
a puzzle to form an unbroken and incredibly swift arabesque.
Each part raced along in nervous electric energy. It was a fugi-
tive duet in Morse code.
it l \i
n i \i
These were the patterns, so utterly Balinese (so "barbarian"
in their restlessness to the Javanese) that broke the music into
spangles, gave it light and fire, created tension so that the longest
phrase could not die, but became instead an adventure. High and
clear, they were forever changing, while below them the melody
Wait! I would call out after a moment. Stop! Please/ That
bit once more.
With the best grace in the world the two boys would stop,
and begin once more. Soon they were off again, faster than ever.
I was amazed at their memory, their precision. Sometimes pat-
terns repeated, sometimes they kept opening out into some-
thing new. Suddenly the boys would get involved, break down,
to burst out laughing, each accusing the other.
Mad6 Tantra sat listening idly; a large bee, attached to his
finger by a thread, flew round and round.
Why doesn't Tantra belong to the club? I asked.
They laughed. He can't remember a note. He only knows how
to paint gold flowers on dancers' costumes.
When Chetig had nothing else to do he would sit on the floor
of the veranda drawing. He would cover sheet after sheet of
paper with patterns for a new jacket he intended to order from
the tailor, the seams, buttonholes and lapels indicated with ut-
most care. One night I saw him at the arja play all dressed up,
but instead of a flower or so in his hair, like Tantra and Kesyur,
he had entangled a dozen fireflies, that shone on and off in the
dark throughout the entire evening. He brought to the house his
tame chunk, a docile bird the size of a robin, that followed hop-
ping and twittering at his heels wherever he went. The bird's
name was Bli, big brother, and Chetig insisted it talked. Every
now and then he would hold it near his ear, and the two would
engage in the softest of conversations. When Bli finally wan-
dered (or flew) away Chetig cried all night, and even the next
day, calling through the trees as he hunted. Yet when he was
stung by a scorpion he bore the pain without a sound after the
first startled Adohl One day he came to me in a state of excite-
ment to say that his brother had just been found murdered on
the road to Tabanan. He would have to be away for several days
helping find who had done it. Three days later he was back.
What news, Chetig? Did you find the man?
Chetig's voice was untroubled. No ... No ... We never
discovered. There he was, lying by the roadside, stabbed in the
back by a kris. No one could think why.
He went through the house, putting things in order, although
Pugog had just finished dusting an hour before.
I HAD lost all track of time; I no longer answered letters; once
in a while I would send Pugog to Den Pasar to ask at the hotel
what day of the week it was. But one morning I awoke to re-
member suddenly that my six months' visitor's permit would
soon run out; unless I wished to change my status to that of a
resident I must prepare to leave. About this time an incident
occurred which I found infinitely depressing.
The importing agent in Den Pasar handled, among other
things, oriental records, Chinese, Malayan, and even readings
from the Koran. There were shelves of Balinese recordings-
sacred texts, cremation-music, theater, music for the shadow-
play. They had been made in Bali in the late twenties by two
German firms, Odeon and Beka, and were rare, since only a few
had been considered successful enough for the European mar-
ket. You could not get them in Europe or even Java, but here
they had been stored in quantities. They had been made, of
course, to sell on the island a naive project, for no Balinese had
money or even the desire for a phonograph. Why should they
sit and listen to disks when the island rang day and night with
music? Thus one morning, when I bought two sets, the agent
remarked bitterly that this was the first sale in a year. I shall
throw them all out, he said angrily. They are only taking up
room on my shelves.
It was a warm day, and I thought that he was perhaps infuri-
ated by the heat as much as anything else. But later, when I
knew I was leaving, I returned for another set of records, only to
find that he had, in one of those quick fits of rage that can seize
a Westerner in the tropics, smashed them all the week before.
Not one remained.
Good riddance, he exclaimed defiantly. He seemed quite
pleased at my dismay. Anyway, he suddenly shouted, how can
you consider that music? You, who call yourself a musician? He
looked at me through his thick glasses with sudden hatred.
I had an unhappy sense of loss. I passed the last two weeks in
feverish activity, photographing musicians and instruments, tak-
ing endless moving pictures of the men as they played. I spent
hours each day working with Nyoman. I called in musicians
from other villages, to take down melodies and technical details.
When at last I gathered my pages together and locked them in
my trunk I had the feeling of storing a folio of pressed flowers.
What would remain, I wondered, when I opened the pages again
two months later?
All this time Nyoman Kal6r refused to believe I was actually
leaving, for I had postponed my departure three times already.
When at last he was convinced, he appeared deeply despondent,
and each day would comment on my going in phrases of poetic
regret that I could not help feeling were a bit overdone.
Made Tantra was overcome.
I keep thinking how I shall miss you, he said. I say to myself,
Ten more days and tuan will be gone. Ten more days and I shall
wonder, Where is tuan now? where look for tuan?
I was touched, especially when he said one night he must
have something to remember me by. A photograph.
Of course, Mad6. I shall have Lai Heng make one tomorrow.
How shall it be I alone, or the two of us together?
But he only said, It does not matter if you are in the picture
So Mad6 had his picture taken, and at his request the photog-
rapher finished the print in style by touching up the buttons of
the jacket in gold before he framed it.
I wished to give a farewell feast for the men of the tegong
gamelan and for the friends I had made in the past months. I
told Nyoman I would ask Gusti Bagus of Saba to bring his
dancers, and the Anak Agung of Kapal to bring his magnificent
16gong gamelan. The combination of the two would make a
memorable performance, I thought. I begged Nyoman to look
after the details of the feast, for there would be nearly a hundred
guests. Since it was impossible to prepare for so many in the
little kitchen of the Mountain of Flowers, it was decided to roast
the pigs and cook the rice in the kitchens of the temple across
Early in the morning of the feast day, boys began to arrive
with mats for us to sit on and round wooden trays off which we
would eat. The high step of the veranda was reserved for the
guests of honor, while mats were spread on the ground below
for the others; there seemed little chance of rain. There would
be pig and turtle for all; and in addition, for the more distin-
guished guests, steamed duck and other delicacies which, said
Chetig, the club wished to offer me in return.
The feast was not altogether a success. I felt far away from
my less honored guests as we of the upper level were served first.
Platters piled high with the crisp skin of the pig were followed
by others containing the meat. Bowls of rice and pungent sauces
were set down among the dishes of hashes and stews, while a
large basin of water was placed near me, to serve as a communal
finger bowl. We began to eat, heartily, silently; this was no time
The dishes were rich, as feast-dishes should be, rich in fat
and coconut-oil. We ate with our right hands, rolling the rice
into wads to drop in our mouths. My fingers were soon greasy,
as I was clumsy in this way of eating, and now and then I dipped
them in the water. From time to time there was a brief request
to hand along the duck, give a little rice. We were completely
given up to the moment, eating rapidly, noisily, with deep satis-
But below I noticed all at once that my other guests had be-
gun to stir, rising and leaving; some had not yet been served. I
asked the Anak Agung on my right what could be the matter.
He paused before throwing a ball of rice in his mouth. They
saw you dip jfpur hand in the water just now, he said. They
think you are through eating and that the feast is over.
But I must tell them!
Too late. They are already leaving. It is nothing, he said, and
before I could call Pugog they had gone.
Those around me were undisturbed. They ate till satisfied,
and now began to comment politely. Gentle, complimentary
belching arose, and remarks: A fat pig! A fine duck! What rich
food! The belches grew louder, the remarks more earnest: Com-
pletely stuffed! A full stomach! A sticking-out stomach!
Now was the time to pass the hand basin, and Chetig poured
water on the fingers that stretched over it.
That night the legong of Saba created a sensation. People had
come for miles to see them, and watched breathlessly, com-
pletely entranced by the swift elegance and beauty of the
dancers. This part of my evening at least, I thought, was a suc-
When the Anak Agung was about to leave, he asked me if I
would send him an alarm clock from Paris. He drew me aside
and said, more seriously,
And, if possible, a bottle of medicine that is a cure for im-
He shook his head sadly, made a pathetic little gesture with
I said I would try, and asked him not to forget me.
The departure was to take place in this way. I had hired a bus
to take the trunks to Buleleng, and fifteen closest friends would
ride along to see me off. The men of the legong gamelan had
arranged that I was to leave the village in heroic style; I was to
walk in procession to Den Pasar, through the town, and say fare-
well at the turn of the road to those left behind. A gamelan
would be carried along to play the pieces I had liked best.
Through the morning everyone in the village seemed to be in
the house. They came and went, bringing enough presents to
fill another bus. There were pineapples, mangos, gigantic
bunches of bananas, coconuts, a tiny squirrel, sugar cane and a
flute. Men and women came up, and their eyes filled with tears.
Why does tuan leave? Why must tuan depart?
May I not go along in the bus, asked old R6wah sentimen-
tally, to say good-by at the ship? I have never been to Buleleng.
About noon the trunks were finally locked and piled in the
bus, which drove off together with the car, to wait at the spot
where the procession was to end. I took a last look at the Moun-
tain of Flowers. It seemed very forlorn and empty. I had given
the monkey to Mad6 Tantra, the heron and parrots to Chetig.
An old man went about the grounds gleaning little treasures.
We formed along the road outside the house. The musicians
went first, and after them the women, with flowers in their hair.
Then the men, and among them, like a precious object care-
fully protected, myself. Behind us thundered a second gamelan,
in a different rhythm and key. It was really quite disturbing.
We walked through the town. As we passed the house of the
Assistant Resident someone peeped from behind a curtain.
Down the main street the Chinese and Arab merchants came
to their doors and looked. Cars and pony carts turned out of the
way to let us pass.
At the bus the procession broke up. To the sound of gongs
and cymbals I got into the car and waved. We started off, fol-
lowed by the bus, which soon passed at top speed, everyone
shouting out the news that they had got ahead.
The ship was to leave at five, and when we arrived in the
middle of the afternoon it was already there, gently rolling, half
a mile out. On shore a second farewell now took place, this time
more temperate, for I had my trunks to see to, and my friends
were torn between the drama of my departure and the distract-
ing sights of an unfamiliar town.
Nyoman, Chetig and Mad6 Tantra rode out in the launch to
the ship. We silently walked the decks, looked down at the en-
gines. I showed them the saloon and my cabin. They turned on
the taps to see the water come out, and exclaimed at the miracle
of the lavatory. The whistle blew and we went on deck.
Good-by, tuan, good-by. Safe traveling.
They went down the steps that hung over the side of the ship
and got into the launch.
Once more good-by, and waving as the boat grew smaller and
smaller. The engines started, there was the sound of churning
water, and the ship headed for Surabaya.
From the stern I watched the island recede and grow blue.
The sky took on the colors of a dying dolphin. From the deck
below came the sound of singing. It was Sunday afternoon; flat
nasal voices had begun intoning familiar hymns. I looked down
over the railing. A group of Celebans, neatly dressed in white
European clothes, were gathered together. They sang in Malay
a paraphrase of the words:
From Greenland's icy mountains
To India's coral strands . . .
Where every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile
The sky grew dark, and the ship's lights went on. A deck boy
passed and I ordered a Dutch gin. I was staying with the ship
as far as Batavia; there I would take another for Marseilles. In a
month I would be once more in Paris.
THE HOUSE IN THE HILLS
PARIS in 1932 seemed much more on edge than when I was
there the year before. Even the taxi drivers spoke with a new
impatience, appeared preoccupied, as though continually listen-
ing for some distant sound. In subways and restaurants there still
hung the placards from last year, II ne faut pas gaspiller le pain,
and in every bookshop La guerre est pour demain was pushed to
the front of the window. I had barely been there a month before
the papers announced in great headlines the electoral victory of
I took a small apartment in the Rue de Fleurus and phoned
Erard for a piano. It was high time to return to composing. But
I found it difficult to get into the mood for work; the weeks
passed and the pages on the piano were filled with no more than
scraps of themes. I went to concerts only to listen with restless-
ness, for the programs of new music that I once delighted in
now seemed suddenly dull and intellectual. I cared even less for
the eloquence of the romantic symphonies. As I sat in the con-
cert halls I thought of the sunny music I had listened to in the
open air, among people who talked and laughed, hearing yet
not hearing the musicians, but cheered and exhilarated by the
sounds. Here, as I looked about me in the hall, I felt suddenly
shut in, and I could hardly wait for the end of the concert. The
huge orchestras sounded torpid and mechanized. The basses
dragged, the drums were heavy as lead, and I could no longer
listen to the endless legato of the violins.
There was no doubt about it. I was already homesick, both for
the life and people I had left and the music, which now seemed
more filled than ever with magic. I unpacked my notes and put
them in order. In plain black and white they had the lifelessness
of harmony exercises, yet for me they were filled with meaning.
Each complemented the other. I began to see a wider design, and
I wished I had taken many more. One afternoon, as I idled away
the time on one of the river boats along the Seine, I realized with
sudden clearness that the only thing in the world I wanted to do
was to return to Bali and make as complete a record as I could
of the music. Some inner compulsion to preserve in some way
this fugitive art made it seem important and urgent. It was only
too clear such music could not survive much longer. A thousand
forces were at work to destroy it; at present the people of the
island still lived in an illusion of freedom, but they had long since
been caught in the net that was now being slowly dragged in,
and their fate was the fate of the eastern world.
One day I received a letter from Nyoman Kalr which said,
among other things,
When does tuan return? I am building a new pavilion, so that
there will always be a place for tuan. It needs only thirty guilders
more. Chetig was killed in a bus that overturned coming down
the road from the mountains.
Two months later I was in Marseilles, waiting for the boat
which would take me back to the Indies. I had decided to build
a house in Bali and live there. How long, I had at the time no
idea; it would depend on my work.
Nyoman Kal6r and Kesyur were waiting at the barbed-wire
gate by the customhouse. We strolled down the streets of Bule-
lng while I savored the moment, hardly daring to believe I was
back. On the way to Den Pasar I asked Kesyur to turn off to
Saba so that I might give the Anak Agung the alarm clock I had
brought back for him. Near the market I found him watching a
cricket-fight, and on his face was that intent expression which
told me there was money at stake.
His face broke into a smile.
B6h! Tuan! Why so long away?
I have just come off the boat from Europa.
Indeed? he said vaguely ... He looked up. Tomorrow I be-
gin to train new dancers. Perhaps you have heard: I have got
water for my ricefields.
And the cockfights?
A little loss, a little gain.
I gave him the clock, and he immediately rang the alarm. As
for its use as an instrument to measure time, I knew it would
never enter his head.
The Anak Agung wanted me to live in Saba; he offered to
build me a house by the pool. Nyoman Kal6r hoped I would
come back to my old house. But I had made up my mind to live
in the hills, for I had found the climate of the lowlands exhaust-
ing, especially in the hot and humid days that preceded the rainy
season. In the hills it was always cool at night. It was also less
populated; villages were more primitive, farther apart, and you
had less the sensation of teeming life, which for six months had
fascinated me, but which I knew I should not care to be in th
midst of over a long period of time. Some quiet village would
be the ideal spot in which to live and work, undisturbed; when
I was in need of fresh material I had only to get in the car, for
the ceremonial and festive life of the island continued through
the year without a break. Kesyur and I drove about looking for
the perfect village, off the beaten track, far from the sight of
tourists, yet near enough to some center of music and dancing.
One day I found the place I was seeking.
The village of Sayan stretched along the top of a narrow ridge
that ran up into the mountains. Every three days a crowded bus
rattled down from the Chinese coffee plantations to Den Pasar,
choking and stalling as it climbed back again at night. The land
I wanted lay at the end of the village, next to the graveyard, on
the edge of a deep ravine. Far below ran the river; across the
valley ricefields rose in terraces and disappeared in the coconut
groves. Behind these ran the mountains of Tabanan, and far off
to the south a triangle of sea shone between the hills. The land
had once been terraced to grow rice, but now was covered with
grass and shaded with coconuts. It descended in several steps to
the edge of the cliff, where it dropped four hundred feet. From
below came the faint roar of the river as it rushed among the
rocks and stones.
The village belonged to the district of Gianyar, ruled by the
detested Anak Agung Ged6, who was eating his heart out at
colonial restraint. His attempts at ancient tyranny were con-
stantly foiled by the Controlleur, whose tiny office across the
square from the palace in Gianyar was a constant and infuriating
reminder of another regime.
Sayan was a peasant village, not very old, but running accord-
ing to old Balinese law. There was not even a village school, and
very few men spoke Malay, which meant I would have to learn
Balinese. There were three banjars, with an assembly hall where
on rare occasions the elders of all three banjars met for matters
of grave importance. There were half a dozen small temples, and
a crumbling palace which belonged to the Chokorda Rahi, a
poverty-stricken prince from the ancient and highborn family
which once ruled in Pliatan, across the valley to the east. The
rest of the village were simple farmers; when they heard a white
man was coming to live among them the signal drums beat
loudly, and there was meeting after meeting of the village elders.
Rendah, the owner of the land, was a shy frail man of fifty;
he was plainly startled when, as he led his cow through the
bamboos one afternoon, he found me sitting under his trees. It
was only after Kesyur told him that I was merely walking for
pleasure that he relaxed. Then Balinese manners prevailed. I was
welcome! Would I not like some coconut-water? He tucked his
dusty sarong around his loins and began to climb a palm with
surprising agility. In a moment there was the double thud of
two nuts as they fell, and he descended, to open them with a
neat blow from his heavy knife.
We sat conversing. I made no mention of my plans, as I knew
the idea that I wanted to build a house on his land would have
to be broken with caution. Kesyur was soon embarked on a
synopsis of where I had come from, where I was going, my
finances and my character, while I was already thinking of the
kind of house to build.
I saw Rendah twice before I ventured to tell him what I had
in mind. It was clearly a shock, and there were many conferences
with his older brother, who was headman of the village. He
spoke in disapproving tones, but finally the two broke down and
consented. I offered to lease the land for ten years, with a lease
to be drawn up legally before the Controlleur in Gianyar. But
before this could be done, the pipil or deed would have to be
found. This was a bit of writing scratched on palm leaf. No one
had seen it for ages, and it took a month to find.
In the meanwhile the village heard of the amazing news, and
soon found out that Rendah would profit considerably. This
was too much! A long and bitter dispute arose over the owner-
ship of the land. The village claimed it had always been village
property. Chokorda Rahi, the prince, suddenly appeared, all
smiles, to say that the land belonged actually to him, had been
given to him long ago by his father, in the palace at Ubud. The
land had been merely loaned to Rendah, he claimed, adding
sweetly that I was welcome to it, I must please accept it.
Rendah, however, insisted that the land had been given out-
right to him by the Chokorda in return for money he had once
loaned, and the day the pipil was found the Chokorda had to
retreat, baffled. This pipil on examination turned out after all
to be made out in favor of Rendah's older brother, the Hian,
with items the coconut trees remained the property of Cho-
korda Rahi; the crop was his; one fifth of it went to Rendah in
payment for watching the trees. At last it was agreed that the
klian should receive the rent, while I would engage Rendah as
gardener and watchman, and give him a similar amount Both
were pleased; this maintained a balance, was justice.
The village, however, was far from pleased, and immediately
began a lawsuit against the klian. Two months later the verdict
was given at the courthouse in Gianyar, and they had lost. Angry
meetings now took place in the pavilion of the elders. Kesyur
told me they had vowed to take the case to Bulel6ng; then to
the Governor-General in Java, and later, if necessary, even to
Queen Wilhelmina herself in Holland.
But Jacobs, the controlleur in Gianyar, assured me the village
had no claim, and that I could begin to build. I did not like the
idea of breaking into a hostile community. I already had a feel-
ing of guilt about the disruption my mere presence in the village
would inevitably cause, but I had hoped I might be able to move
in peacefully. However, I felt that this quarrel was not mine, and
I decided to let matters stand until the time when I actually
came to the village to live. I was determined not to ruin things
at the outset by the simple solution of offering a bribe of money,
and I had lived on the island long enough to feel that things
would soon quiet down again, especially if I made the village a
present of two pigs at next galungan-time, which was soon ap-
proaching. This was a ten-day season of bright celebrations, when
the spirits of the ancestors came down to earth to be honored
and entertained, and the opening day in particular was one of
great feasting. It was also a day for giving presents chiefly food,
it seemed, for everyone who killed a pig for his own use sent the
choicest parts to those to whom he felt indebted in some way.
On this day I gave new batik sarongs to Kesyur, Nyoman, Mad6
Tantra; a bottle of brandy to Gusti Bagus in Saba. The unex-
pected arrival of two additional pigs for slaughter (as large as I
could find) could not fail, I thought, to soothe the village elders,
especially on a morning when all were in the best of humor.
Since my return I had been staying in Ubud, a few miles
from Sayan, with Walter Spies, a German artist who had lived
in Java and Bali for a long time, and who painted enchanting
and dreamlike pictures half Persian miniature, half Rousseau
of the island. We now went every day to Sayan, to walk around
the grounds and discuss the best position for the house. Some-
times we were joined by old Rendah, who would invite us to
"pay a call" at his house down the road, where he would offer
us sweet rice-cakes and coconut-juice. Rendah's household and
I were on the friendliest of terms, for I had already won over the
youngest children with a mechanical Mickey Mouse. I had also
found my neighbor, Gari, whose fields and house lay to the
south, as willing to make friends. But when I called on my other
neighbor to the north I ran against a wall of cold unfriendliness,
of stiff, unrelenting politeness that I never succeeded, the whole
time I lived in the village, in thawing to the slightest degree.
Gusti Lusuh, the contractor, was a honey-voiced noble from
Gianyar who smiled and bowed at every suggestion I made.
When he spoke, he always referred to himself by the Malayan
word hamba, your servant, slave, which I found too affected for
words, especially when he constantly spoke of the coolies who
would work on the house as his vassals. When we discussed
prices and materials he would grow suddenly distraught, and I
could read in his eyes rapid calculations in which he planned to
profit outrageously. For a week we haggled energetically, and
when at last a price was reached that was about half the first
quotation I thought I probably was not going to pay much more
than I ought
The house was to be built native style. There would be several
buildings a sleeping-house, a main house, a kitchen, bathhouse
and garage. There would also be the house temple, a little group
of shrines for my ancestral gods in the northeast corner of the
land. All buildings would have thatch roofs; all materials except
for the floors, which would be of polished Borneo cement, were
to be found on the island. I wanted the house built quickly, but
Gusti Lusuh dismissed so foreign an idea immediately: it was
the wrong season for cutting bamboos; good lalang grass for
thatch had not reached full growth; both ironwood for the pil-
lars and teak for the bookshelves would take time to find. More-
over, the foundations could not be begun before a propitious
day had been sought, when permission to open the land would
have to be asked of the gods.
I went to the pemangku, the priest and temple guardian of
the banjar in which I would live, to consult the calendar for a
favorable day. It seemed as though I must wait a long time, for
all good days for beginning to build were dominated, it seemed,
by evil forces for months to come. But I said I could not wait
that long, and at last we decided to risk everything on a day not
far off, when bad omens barely overbalanced the good.
Work began one bright morning while the grass was still wet
with dew. When I arrived from Ubud the pemangku had already
set up a row of bamboo shrines, in which he had placed the
offerings for the gods. On the ground below were spread the
offerings for the demons. For a long time he sat murmuring
chain after chain of magic verses, but at last he rose, saying his
work was finished and that we might proceed.
Gusti Lusuh had brought twenty-five coolies to work, and
they had already built a sleeping hut and a kitchen, for they
would live on the place until the house was finished. They
laughed and called out as they set to work, while Gusti Lusuh
walked about, thoughtfully tapping his chin with his ruler. Each
time a tree was cut down, a little branch was planted in the cleft
of the trunk, so that the tree-spirit might have some place to go,
and I wondered where the spirit finally went when a few days
later the trunks were dragged away by the family of Rendah, to
be cut up for firewood.
I went to see Pugog, but he could not work for me, as he had
become head boy at the hotel. He suggested his younger brother,
Pugig. A week later a tall and serious youth arrived in Ubud
to see me. He was rather startled at the prospect of living in
what seemed to him the wilds, and in a thatched house, so un-
conventional for a tuan. He had been trained in the neat new
bungalows of Den Pasar, and to take charge in Sayan, in a house,
moreover, built on the side of a steep valley, filled him with dis-
may. At the first earthquake, he announced as we stood looking
out over the valley in Sayan, this will all surely slide down the
hill. I liked his appearance, for he seemed both earnest and re-
sponsible, and I finally induced him to come.
I now went to Java for a week to look for a piano and furnish-
ings for the house. I chose a used Steinway grand which was
offered for sale in the Soeraba/'aasche Handelsblad. It was de-
scribed as built for the tropics, but this was not so, and later
I had a great deal of trouble with it, especially in the rainy season.
I did not stay this time in one of the large and frigid European
hotels, but went instead to a Chinese inn. It was friendly and
crowded, and noisy as a zoo. Through the open transoms of the
rooms came the sound of singing and laughter, the music of
fiddles, the click of mahjong bricks, kept up from early morn-
ing till far into the night. All day long boys knocked on doors
with fresh tea and hot towels or trays of covered dishes. Around
three in the morning the halls grew silent, but for a brief hour
only, for at dawn life began once more where it had left off. I
opened my door to find incense burning over a little heap of
offerings on the cement floor of the hall. One by one the guests
awoke, and soon all was noise and sociability again.
The afternoon the ship sailed I strolled through the bird-
market where you could buy parrots and cockatoos, hornbills
and tiny finches, wood pigeons the size of young geese. A cage
of brilliant doves caught my eye. Some were saffron, some rose
or emerald-green; others were iridescent bronze. I took a dozen
back to the ship, for I thought they would make astonishing
presents for old Rendah, Kesyur and Mad6 Tantra, who was in
Ubud to help Pugig until I got settled. But that night it rained.
The cages had been left on deck, and the next morning I found
a sad transformation, for my birds had been dyed, and now I
had only a dozen bedraggled domestic pigeons.
What are these for? asked Kesyur as he came on deck from
the launch to help me off the ship.
Oh, nothing ... I answered. I could not bring myself to
In the tropics it is the plants that live intensely, thrusting up
and flowering overnight, while the work of man proceeds so
slowly as to be at times quite imperceptible. It was thus with
my house. I gave up hope of ever seeing it finished as I watched
the coolies work five days and stop for ten. Once they were away
for a month to help prepare for. the cremation of Gusti Lusuh's
grandfather. Back they came to work for ten days, only to stop
for another month, for the week of galungan was near, the time
when the gods came down to earth, and long after they had de-
parted the island would remain in a holiday mood. In the day-
time strolling actors and dancers would travel from village to
village, to perform from morning to dusk. At night there would
be shadowplays, arja; no one could possibly think of work.
At the end of galungan a period of rain now set in, but a day
came at last when the sky cleared and the sun shone once more.
There was a strong wind blowing, and it seemed a fine day for
work. I drove to Sayan, only to find the coolies, too exhilarated
to work, absorbed in making toy windmills. The place hummed;
boys and men ran back and forth with little ones that turned
on the ends of poles, while on the roof of the sleeping-house the
master carpenter was busy fixing a large one in place.
From the veranda two Chinese carpenters surveyed the scene
with placid superiority. They had been engaged to build the
cupboards and shelves. Steeped in opium, they worked in a
Nirvana of peace, leisurely and accurately fitting drawers, shaking
their heads at each instance of inferior Balinese workmanship.
After an hour's contact with reality they would lay down their
planes, light their pipes and retire once again into a more Con-
fucian world of the spirit.
However, the time finally came when I could move in. All but
the main house was ready, but before the house could be en-
tered, beds slept in, fires lighted, the ceremony of consecration
would have to be performed. Once more the pemangku and
calendar were consulted for a favorable day. The women of
Rendah's household prepared the offerings, the endless ritualistic
cakes, flower arrangements and objects of fresh green palm leaf.
In addition to this there must of course be music, and in the
evening a theatrical performance to end the day in style. Kesyur's
mind was immediately at work with the idea of a great three-day
festival that would include the legong dancers from Saba, the
arja company from Batuan (at that time the most famous and
the highest in price) and finally /anger, a sort of modern vaude-
ville that was very popular and which I found incredibly dull.
In fact, it was to be an unforgettable event that would startle
everyone for miles. There must also be a display of fireworks,
and a long row of decorated bamboo poles along the roadside
by the gate.
Rendah listened open-mouthed. But Made Tantra was for a
shadowplay, and Pugig for the /oged dancer from the next village.
This meant he could dance with her, and he rather fancied him-
self as a dancer.
Kesyur listened impatiently. What? Only the joged from
Kengaton? A poor affair indeed that cost only two guilders at
the most; besides, all had slept with her long ago.
But to Kesyur's disgust I explained that this was to be a small
celebration. The house was only half finished and half paid for.
Time enough to be reckless when the main building was ready.
The others agreed, and we decided on a shadowplay.
But at least call a good dalang, pled Kesyur, who did not want
to see me disgraced, for it would ultimately reflect on him, and
I promised to engage the one from Mas, an elderly Brahman of
great scholarship. His performance was famous for its eloquence,
and it was said that in the pathetic parts he could move his audi-
ence to tears. I went to see him, and it was arranged that for
twenty strings of Chinese cash he would play from midnight till
dawn. I was to furnish the oil for his lamp, and tea and betel
for his assistants, who were each to receive, in addition, the gift
of a Chinese paper umbrella.
Kesyur now soothed his wounded feelings by ordering a num-
ber of fine bamboo poles on his own account to decorate and
set up along the road. He took pains to inform everyone that
this was only a preliminary; we would not kill a turtle now, only
pig. There would be few guests. Later, a real feast, conducted
properly, could be expected.
The month had been full of sun, but the rainy season was
near, and every afternoon the clouds now gathered more darkly.
By night they disappeared, but the moonlight was no longer
brilliant. The day for moving in began bright and steaming, but
by noon the clouds had piled in dense layers. There was silence
in the air, a brief drumming of rain, and again silence.
It's finished, said Kesyur in relief, as we turned the road to
Sayan. There will be no more rain today.
By the gate a crowd had gathered, and as I drove in there was
a glorious burst of firecrackers, set off by Pugig and Tantra.
Nyoman Kal6r had come on bicycle, bringing a fighting-cock as
On the veranda of the sleeping-house four shadowplay-g'nd6rs
played soft animated music. The offerings had already been set
out on the floor, and before them the pemangku now lighted
his sticks of incense and closed his eyes. He prayed for the safety
of the house, for the protection of the gods. A half hour passed,
and then he rose, to go from house to house smearing the lintel
of each door with the three magic colors, black, white and red,
composed of soot, lime and fresh chicken's blood. From each
lintel he hung a square of white cloth covered with magic di-
agrams. As he sprinkled each house with holy-water (brought
all the way from the volcano lake) he intoned the spells that
were directed against all devils. For my land was magically dan-
gerous. It not only lay next to the graveyard, but was not com-
pletely surrounded by walls; no precaution could be considered
superfluous in protecting me from evil.
The pemangku had barely gone before there was a faint rus-
tling sound far up the valley that within a few minutes rose to
a roar, and suddenly in a gale the rain fell, furiously, taking the
breath out of you. Palms tossed; nuts and branches crashed to
earth; bamboos strained against each other, groaned and shrieked
like primeval monsters. The terraced land was turned to water-
falls and ditches of foam.
This was a bleak beginning. I felt lonely and dispirited as I
watched Made Tantra come in from the kitchen, drenched and
naked beneath a broad coolie hat. The wind blew out the lamps
as he lighted them, and the house creaked like a ship in a heavy
But in an hour the storm had passed. The moon came out,
washed clean. In the lean-to beside the kitchen the pig was
already turning on the fire, and from the kitchen came the
cheerful sounds of chopping and laughter.
Suddenly I heard singing. A young, nasal voice, langorous,
insolent, and at the same time mysteriously filled with a veiled
radiance, rose in the air. The singer, I later learned, was the poet
Were I rich I would take you to the Bali Hotel
There the beds are covered with fine silk
We would lie down
And when we had made love we would leave
In a fine Chevrolet
Blowing our horn loudly along the way.
It was Durus, said Kesyur, a boy from the company of arja
players in Batuan, who had come here with the dalang. He some-
times acted, sometimes wrote the verses for the songs.
At the end of the stanza there were cries of sardonic approval;
the voice grew thinner, more derisive, then stopped, submerged
in a shout of laughter. Another voice, now harsh and strident,
took its place. Back and forth the voices answered each other,
burlesquing a scene from some play, until the cooks called out
the pig was done.
The booth for the shadowplay had been set up outside the
gate, and by ten there was the familiar scene, the lamps glowing
on the little food tables, the crowd wandering about or sitting
gathered before the screen. The dalang's lamp was already burn-
ing, and the music had begun.
The story was from the first book of the Hindu epic Maha-
bharata, the Wars of the Bharatas.
The gods have assembled to produce amrita, the food of im-
mortality, by churning the sea. They use the great mountain
Meru for churning-stick, Naga the great serpent of the under-
world for rope; for pivot they use the turtle on which the world
rests. The demon Kala Rahu has joined them in disguise, and in
the course of events slyly manages to steal some of the amrita
and eat it. But before he has time to swallow, Sun and Moon
denounce him, and Vishnu cuts off his head. But the head has
become immortal, and in revenge swallows the sun and moon,
causing the eclipses . . .
Such is the bare outline of a play that went on all night. I sat
there, between Nyoman and old Rendah, until I could hardly
keep my eyes open. I was too tired to wait for the end, and
finally I got up and left. I stood on the veranda of the sleeping-
house and looked out; across the valley the moon was low in
the sky, and its light streamed through the open windows over
the bed. I could hear the music from the road, and the voice of
the dalang as it rose and fell in the half-chanted dialogues. As I
fell asleep the sounds merged with the soft roar of the river be-
low; it seemed hard to believe in the violent tempest that had
taken place so short a time before.
It was about a week after I had moved into my house that the
village decided to barricade me. One morning Kesyur rushed up
to the veranda with the dramatic news that the elders of the
four banjars had held a meeting the night before and had now
gathered and were dragging trees and bushes to pile fai front of
the entrance. I could hear sounds of disturbance out on the road,
the voices of many people like the humming of angry bees, and
I walked up the driveway to find that it had been blocked com-
pletely. A thick wall of shrubs, branches and pineapple plants lay
piled at the gate, and in front boys and men, wearing their krises
or knives, came and went or squatted by the roadside, their faces
dark with determination.
The reason? It seemed that the drive I had made to connect
my land with the village road took in a foot or so of land be-
longing to the graveyard. Also belonging to the graveyard was the
pandanus thicket which I had partly cleared in order to make
room for the mud wall which ran along the driveway. This was
village property, and there they had me. Not allowed! They do
not give! I am to be sealed in!
I knew I had only to drive to the Controlleur in Gianyar, but
I preferred to arrange things if possible according to village law.
I asked Gusti Lusuh to speak for me.
He stood on the wall and used his suave and disarming elo-
quence. Tuan regrets! Tuan did not know! Tuan has come as a
friend. If it is given, tuan would like to become a village member
and pay annual dues with the rest. In addition, for the privilege
of using a foot of village property he offers to contribute two
pigs each year to the village feast at galungan-time.
The effect of his words was immediate, like a funeral oration
on a Shakespearean mob. Within five minutes hearts had melted
and men were dragging off branches so laboriously brought a
short time before. Only a few older men remained. The leader,
a scarlet hibiscus in his gray locks, spoke with dignity:
Tuan's thoughts are gentle and considerate. His attitude is
noble. Indeed he is welcome to the land, and the men of Sayan
In this way the village forgot all grievances and accepted me.
I SOON discovered that I had chosen a more austere village
to live in than at first I had thought. Already Pugig and Kesyur
were complaining of the silence after nightfall. Not one sound!
Not one light! It was a wilderness/ It was true. No music filled
the air at night, no voices sang along the road. By nine the
village slept; rarely did a feeble lamp burn in the clubhouse down
the road, to light a drowsy group around a gambling-table, or a
still drowsier conversation between two or three village elders.
The village possessed a very out-of-tune ceremonial gamelan,
but only on feast-days were the metal keys and gongs unlocked
and set up on the rough wooden stands that lay piled in a corner
of the temple. This gamelan had a thin disagreeable sound, for
some of the instruments were missing, and one of the great gongs
had once fallen and cracked, and now gave only a hoarse rattle
when struck. It never occurred to the men whose part it was to
play at the temple (they did not call themselves a club) to gather
and practice, or make music for pleasure. They had been playing
the same four or five ceremonial pieces that their fathers had
played before them; these were sufficient to honor the gods with
music, and there was no need to learn any others.
This collection of aged instruments belonged to my own
banjar, Kutuh. The banjar of Mas to the south had two more
gamelans. One belonged to the tegong club, but there had been
no dancers for years. The musicians, however, played from time
to time at ceremonies in the temples of their own banjar only,
for it seemed that even in Sayan there was unfriendliness be-
tween banjars. Chokorda Rahi, the prince, had trained a troup
of arja players for a while, but the prettiest girls had married,
there had been a quarrel among the actors, and the club had
disbanded. There was, however, the jog6d dancer whom Cho-
korda Rahi had also trained. She was no beauty, said Kesyur,
and her dance was mountain style. But it was at least entertain-
The reason for this apathy lay perhaps in the fact that Sayan
stood on the very outskirts of the old kingdom of Gianyar. It
was a new village, said Rendah, only recently settled. In the time
of his grandfather the ridge had been covered with heavy jungle.
Young men who had wished to establish households of their
own had come from the crowded town of Pliatan, a few miles
to the east; they had been given grants of land when they mar-
ried in return for their services in the palace of the old Chokorda
as parakans, temporary slaves or attendants. Slowly they had
cleared the land, terraced the slopes of the valley for their rice
and corn, built further canals and conduits to bring water into
At the river they went no farther, for across the valley to the
west began the kingdom of Tabanan. The slopes had once been
the scene of occasional skirmishes between the two enemy rajahs.
Rendah could still remember. How many times had he seen the
foe pursued across the valley! With gongs and banners the war-
riors marched from Gianyar, armed with spears and blowpipes,
even guns. The priests came too, while the rajah rode on a white
horse. You could hear the drums for miles. Once they had fought
on this very land, here where my house now stood.
I asked him if many were killed in these battles. He shook his
head. He could hardly remember two he had seen with his own
eyes. And one was drunk, he added seriously.
Little by little, as they had in Kedaton, people began to wan-
der in from the village, to sit politely on the edge of the veranda
and gaze at the complicated structure of the house. Sometimes
they were strangers from far away with something to sell, a kris
or mask, or newly woven pandanus mats and homespun of
whitest thread. Sayan was on a road which ran far into the
mountains, and soon boys from the hills began to appear with
the most surprising objects. One day I had bought a couple of
young monkeys, and now, within a month, there were brought
to the house jungle-fowl, a flying fox, an iguana, a small python,
tiny red and green parrots that slept hanging upside-down from
their perches and a young hornbill, still without feathers and
looking like a goose ready for the oven. From the sea, twenty
miles away, a frail old man now made a weekly call with his
basket of fresh salt. Sometimes, with a crafty smile, waiting for
my exclamation of surprise, he would slowly remove the cover
to disclose a few lobsters or crabs lying on top of the salt. Long
and leisurely bargaining was the very essence of these transac-
tions, and I soon learned not to destroy all pleasure in a sale by
bringing it quickly to a close and accepting the first price men-
Often my visitors arrived with a present a hen, a few eggs,
a basket of mangos; but although these gifts were set down with
the briefest of words indicating their presence, they were (I soon
discovered) usually to be considered as payment in advance for
something wanted in return an empty kerosene tin, a glass jar,
or medicine which might possibly help the giver's rheumatism.
One afternoon an old man sat down, to make a polite request
for a sheet of fine paper, white, and with, he added, a star for
watermark. This I did not have, but among my things I found
a writing pad that had been marked with a large crown, and I
asked my visitor if this might do. He held the sheet of paper to
the light, looked at it searchingly, but after saying it was not
what he was seeking, he made a final bow and departed as mys-
teriously as he had come.
One day a visitor from the other banjar came in and sat for
a long time in silence. He looked the house up and down. His
wrinkled eyes took in the other buildings.
B6h! Now we have two palaces in the village, he finally re-
marked. One to the north, one to the south. Only the Cho-
korda's is falling, he added politely.
I had not thought till now of how my house might be con-
sidered in Sayan, and I found this comment far from agreeable.
It would not leave my mind. I thought with regret of the Moun-
tain of Flowers in Kedaton, and the easy friendliness of the
village. But gradually the remark lost its sharpness. For the rela-
tionship between palace and village had long been recognized
and accepted; my role, already cast for me by the people of
both banjars, was, I realized, the only natural one for me to play.
Fortunately, I could remember the Anak Agung of Saba perched
on top of his stepladder, or seated among his musicians with a
drum in his lap. I thought of the Anak Agung of Lukluk apply-
ing with loving care the make-up on the faces of his dancers; of
Chokorda Johni who drove a truck. I was grateful for the flex-
ibility of the part assigned to me, and I only hoped I might be
able to play it with imagination.
One late afternoon as I sat reading, there was the sudden
clatter of a bicycle coming down the gravel road, the sound of a
rusty brake, and a boy of perhaps seventeen got off his machine,
leaned it carefully against a tree and came up to the house, to
sit down on the veranda floor with a quick smile and bid me a
slightly breathless good-day. It was Durus, whose singing I still
remembered coming out of the darkness the night of my arrival,
above the sound of other voices as the men roasted the pig. He
was here now, it seemed at first, to sell me a ring, for he was
from Batuan, a village of goldsmiths. But as he sat there it soon
developed that the real object of his visit was to ask if he might
work in my house. He could write, he said. He could read. He
could polish lamps, be my secretary, learn to be useful.
He spoke eagerly. There was a bit of the startled deer about
him in his nervous grace, and also a candor, an impulsiveness
in his voice and manner that I thought very charming. The idea
of a poet in the house amused me, but I said I did not know yet
if I needed anyone else, and that I would think about it I asked
him about himself.
No, he had not gone to school. His father had taught him to
read and write. He had read as much as he could find that was
written in the Balinese language; but he knew only a few words
of Kawi, old Javanese, in which most of the ancient literature
was written. He belonged to the newest arja club in Batuan,
wrote verses for the singers and sometimes acted. What role?
Oh, he was best as Kartala, one of the comic attendants.
Batuan was only ten miles away, and it was not long before
I began to expect the sudden and always slightly excited arrival
of Durus every few days as he came to tell me of a feast or play
he had just heard of, that would take place somewhere near his
own village, or else to announce that he had no news whatever,
but had simply come to pay me a call.
He was very good at explaining the plot of the play when we
went to a performance at night, and would often appear a few
days later with the story we had seen acted written out in great
detail. He now began to bring me palm-leaf books which he
said had belonged to his father, who had been something of a
seer and scholar as well as goldsmith. How this collection had
come together I could not imagine, for the titles were strangely
varied-The Laws of the Smith; The Creation of the World;
Of Objects to be Buried on Building a Temple; Means of De-
tecting a Thief; The Tale of Birds Who Formed an Actors'
Club. But I could make nothing of the texts, since they were in
the old Kawi language, and I now made arrangements with
Mad6 Gria, a scholar and dalang whom I already knew in Ubud,
to come to the house a few days a week and translate into Malay
these ancient writings that seemed to me so full of mystery.
Soon Durus had become one of the household, for Pugig had
decided he needed a helper. He sang as he polished the silver,
and he was forever writing verses for some imaginary arja play.
These verses were in the strictest classical style, I discovered,
although the subject was often a considerable surprise. One day
he commemorated in verse an account of an agreeable excursion
we had made the day before, complete with the route we had
taken, Kesyur's bad temper at the blowout he had had to mend,
our picnic in the mountains, and the town where we had stopped
to buy cigarettes and ice cream. Durus had composed this little
poem in the meter of Durma, which has seven lines of different
length to a verse, and I was amused to find his stanzas coincide
exactly, down to the number of syllables and the vowel endings
to each line, with the verse by that name as it was given in
Raffles 7 book on Java, published over a century before.
This is a handsome poem, I said. You must read it.
But instead of reading it he sang it to me, in the chant proper
to the meter. Poetry could not be read, it seemed; it must be
One day he returned in triumph from Batuan with a rare
text he had discovered in the home of the klian in his village.
It was a book of recipes and ingredients for the different feast
dishes, written in verse. But when I gave it to Made Gria, the
dalang, to read, he looked at it for some time, and at last, finding
the stanzas unfamiliar, he said,
I cannot read it, for I do not know the tune.
But never mind the tune; just read the words.
But he only repeated, I can't; I do not know the tune . . .
Today you may not write, announced Durus as he brought in
the coffee early one morning and found me beginning a letter.
Nor read . . . That is, if you intend to follow custom as you
say. It is the day of the books . . .
It was the last day of the galungan festival, a day of general
purification, when all who could made a pilgrimage to the sacred
pool of Tampaksiring in the hills to bathe. It was also a day
dedicated to Saraswati, goddess of wisdom and learning, a day
of peace, and quiet visiting among friends.
That afternoon, together with old Rendah, Durus and Kesyur,
I drove up the road that led to Tampaksiring. As we approached
we could see in the valley below the long rectangular pool of
clearest water. The bright holiday clothes of men and women
as they came and went were shining specks of pink and green,
yellow, blue and orange.
We arrived at the gates, to enter the men's side of the bathing-
place and undress. Beneath the spouts of water that ran out
from the pool we stood along with strangers who had come
from far away, men and boys who spoke and laughed softly
among themselves, their voices half drowned by the cheerful
sound of falling water. It was a sunny afternoon, with a clear
blue sky, and the air was filled with a quiet Sunday peace. On
the way home Durus wished to go on to Batuan, to his house, in
order that Rendah and I might visit and be served with "yellow
rice," the dish which was made on this day only, in honor of the
gods, particularly the goddess Saraswati.
The same atmosphere of peace hung over the household of
Durus. With smiling words of welcome we were led to a pavil-
ion, and from where I sat I could see over the walls into the little
house temple, with its shrines now filled with flowers and offer-
ings of rice. As I sat there, tasting the faintly scented rice which
had been placed before me, piled in a silver dish, I felt indeed
that I was nourishing the divinity within me. Its flavor was
enchanting, for among the grains of rice stained with turmeric
to a golden yellow, the color of the gods, there were scattered
shreds of verbena and the pink, waxlike petals of the kechichang,
a blossom with a taste acrid and utterly strange, like the taste of
On the way home, as we passed through Ubud, I stopped to
pay a call on Walter, since it was visiting-day, but he was not
at home. We returned to Sayan, to find on the table by my bed-
room door a large silver bowl of yellow rice, buried in flower
petals. It was from Mad6 Gria the dalang. Beside the palm-leaf
books which he had been working on the day before there lay
a little fan of blossoms.
How do you honor books in America? Durus asked as he set
a lamp on the table. A large mantis flew out of the dark and
settled in the circle of light.
I found it hard to explain.
THE TEMPLE OF THE DEAD
DURING the galungan holidays, the island was suddenly filled
with magnificent masked beasts. With glaring eyes and snapping
jaws, with elaborate golden crowns, great hairy bodies bedecked
with little mirrors, and tails that rose high in the air to end in a
tassel of tiny bells, they pranced and champed up and down the
roads from village to village to the sound of cymbals and gongs,
as though they had newly emerged, like awakened dragons, from
caves and crevices in which for months they had been lying
This was the barong, a beautiful composite animal, lion, said
some, bear, said others, Ruler of the Demons, said still others.
Parasols of white were held above his head in honor as he trav-
eled along the road, and in the villages he danced and snapped
his jaws obligingly before each gateway to clear the air of demons,
while children gathered courage to approach and pluck a hair
from his body for luck. Adored and terrifying creature, sacred
pet filled with magic and protective power, his mask and shaggy
hide were kept within the temple, and carefully guarded by the
I could never quite understand his changeable nature. In some
villages the barong departed at galungan time, to roam at large
for a month, accompanied by his club of attendants and musi-
cians, to play for a few pennies in village after village, reveling
in his freedom like some beast escaped from a zoo. Yet in Sayan
he seemed a captive, rarely leaving the village or even emerging
from the temple, except to be taken to some sacred spring for
purification. He remained there, unseen, his presence felt by all,
referred to as the Great Sir when one wished to pay him special
At festive afternoon performances these creatures were high-
spirited and full of whims, dancing a strange ballet, coquettish
and playful one moment, rolling on the ground like a puppy,
and suddenly and unaccountably ferocious the next, snapping
and stamping in fine fury as the two dancers within the body
synchronized their steps and movements with beautiful co-ordi-
But when, late at night, towards the end of some play, the
barong made a dramatic entry, looming out of the darkness to
the sound of agitated drums, it was no longer the friendly agree-
able creature. It advanced slowly, with strange menace, its gold
and mirrors shining dimly in the lamplight. Now it had become
the mystic and supernatural form of king or saint about to en-
gage in battle against the forces of evil, a conflict in which the
last ounce of magic strength would be needed to put to flight
the witch or demon foe. This was a dark moment in the drama,
a moment of hovering on the borderline between reality and
the unseen, for more often than not the dancers, carried away,
identifying themselves perhaps with the beast whose body now
enveloped them, fell into trance. Here a new drama might begin,
for the barong often left the stage, to run quite wild into the
In Sayan, it appeared, the barong was unusually sakti charged
with magic. Its body of white chicken feathers and its ancient
mask were kept in the Temple of the Dead which stood just
outside the village, to the south, along with the equally sakti
mask of the Witch, the terrible widow, Chalonarang. Wrapped
in cloth, protected with charms, the two masks were locked away
until the time of the temple's anniversary feast. Now they were
taken out, to lie side by side among the offerings, strange com-
plementary symbols for two magic forces the magic of right
and left, of light and darkness; positive and negative, protective
There had been no temple feast in Sayan since I arrived, but
one morning Rendah remarked as he came in that the Temple
of the Dead would begin its celebration at the time of the next
The temple was a small one, and as there was to be little in
the way of entertainment, it was not until the third night, the
night of the departure of the gods, that I walked down the road
late at night to watch the shadowplay that was taking place un-
der the trees before the temple. It was a noisy play from the
Ramayana. Prince Rama had called the apes and monkeys to
help him wage war on the demon king Rawana and recover Sita,
his stolen bride.
But one saw little of the noble Rama or the princess. Instead,
the audience watched with enthusiasm an endless series of bat-
tles between demons and monkeys, for a dalang who specialized
in this play was popular according to the realism with which he
could imitate the sound of monkeys in rage and howl like a
thousand demons great and small. The dalang that night was
amazingly clever, and what with the sound of gongs and drums
and the banging of the dalang's gavel during the fights, you
could have heard the din a mile away. But in spite of all this
commotion I began to yawn, and soon I fell asleep.
I awoke to find it close to dawn. The play had already stopped;
only a few boys remained, to watch the dalang put away his
puppets. From within the temple there rose the long-drawn-out
chant of women's voices.
Inside, the temple was half empty. Resting on their instru-
ments, lying flat beneath the gongs, the musicians slept. I recog-
nized the gamelan in the shadows as the one belonging to the
south banjar, and among the men there were some whom I
already knew Sekan, a surly youth, head of the jog6d club; old
Popol, the stone carver; Klepus, son of the ironsmith; several
boys who were always to be seen about the marketplace.
The pemangku finished praying and rang his bell. He got up
and gently woke the drummer, for it was time to begin the
gabor, the final dance with offerings. Slowly the men awoke and
picked up their hammers. The light, animated music began, very
In the darkness of the dimly lit courtyard (for the moon had
sunk; there were only the stars) the women who were to dance
stood waiting. Soon they began to move in line, in pairs, in
fours, breaking suddenly away to scatter over the courtyard and
meet once more before the shrines and altars. They danced sim-
ply, with great dignity. I recognized old Koti, the hunchback
sister of Rendah, among them, now beautiful as the others with
her hair filled with flowers, her shoulders bare, her tightly wound
black skirt trailing behind her as she danced.
But now the light began to change; in the east the sky had
turned a faint yellow. Imperceptibly the music grew quicker;
drums became more agitated. Suddenly from among the onlook-
ers the priestess darted into the midst of the dancers in violent
trance, waving in her clenched hand a kris. The dancers scat-
tered. For a moment she seemed scarcely to move, but with a
cry she clutched it in both hands and pressed the point to her
breast. Tossing and writhing, her hair loose and flying, she now
began to dance frantically, aimlessly.
As though her appearance were a signal, the music had changed
with unbelievable violence. A new rhythm now sounded from
the drums, heavy and ominous, as drumsticks now beat in rising
fury. The hypnotic phrase of the music which had been repeated
over and over became a single reiterated note that rang, rang,
rang above the clashing cymbals. Only the priestess danced.
All at once there was a commotion in the gamelan. One after
another the musicians grew rigid, and fell with a crash over
jangling keys. Youths and men rose panting, eyes staring as
though answering some dreadful summons. Sarongs rolled to
their loins, they stepped like somnambulists out into the center
of the court, krises high, bodies tense, until, with a sudden thrust
of the blade against his chest, each threw himself into a frenzy.
With wild stabbing motions they attacked themselves. I won-
dered at the strange resistance which kept the blade from enter-
ing the flesh, for I thought they must surely kill themselves. One
by one they collapsed shuddering and sobbing to the ground to
lie with outstretched arms, flexing their backs, thighs braced,
writhing in spasms both tortured and ecstatic.
In the early light the white form of the barong was now
clearly visible. It stood at one end of the courtyard staring and
motionless, but now two men entered beneath the body to bring
it to life. Its little bells jingling softly, the beast came out into
the center of the court and stood there. Offerings were brought
and set before it.
The light grew stronger. Bodies relaxed; the sobbing died.
One by one the boys and men awoke or were awakened by the
priest. They looked about, rose, and silently walked away.
Sometime during the night the gods had left.
Soon the only sound to be heard inside the temple was that
of an attendant sweeping the empty court. A single dog sniffed
among the offerings. The sun rose higher, shriveling the fallen
flowers, filling the temple with a blinding glare. In the village,
by this time, daily routine had once more been resumed.
I HAD begun to grow restless at the slow progress of the coolies
on the house, for I was impatient to commence work. The piano
had not yet arrived, and on the veranda of the sleeping-house
the crates from Java stood unopened. One morning I called
Kesyur and Durus and told them to strap the tent which I had
brought from Europe to the back of the car, get together provi-
sions and be ready to leave within an hour, for I had decided to
go off on a trip of exploration.
The territory I had in mind was far at the eastern end of the
island, beyond the last great town of Karangasem, where the
villages lay scattered around the base of the sacred mountain,
the Gunung Agung. Hot, glaring, this bleached, arid land sug-
gested the primitive sunshine of Crusoe's island. In the tangled
lalang grass iguanas met and fought with the fury of dinosaurs,
and when at last you came to a village you were blinded by the
reflections of the whitewashed walls that crumbled in the sun,
unrelieved by any shade.
Here, it seemed, mysterious and ancient gamelans were to
be found, unlocked only on the most solemn occasions. Antique
musical instruments, long since discarded elsewhere as too sim-
ple and crude, were said to be still in use. I was particularly
curious about one, a strange affair of bamboo, known as the
angJdung, which I had seen in the museum at Batavia. It was an
early Indonesian instrument, used long before the coming of
the Hindus. But although in Bali, even in Sayan, there were to
be heard at feasts sweet-toned gamelans which bore the name of
angklung, they did not include these ancient primitive instru-
ments, nor did anyone recall a time when they had been used,
or even what they looked like. But I remembered that once Nyo-
man Kaler had vaguely said he had seen them at a cremation in
Karangasem, and now I decided to go and see for myself, for not
only did I hope that these angklungs were still used, but I was
eager to discover what kind of music they might make. I told
Durus to pack my cameras and plenty of film, and said to Pugig
that I would be away a week or even more.
Durus was elated. Plesir/ he called out to Rendah in Malay;
Off for pleasure! Melalli/ he shouted triumphantly to Pugig who
must remain at home to guard the house Off to forget! This
charming word not only meant to "forget," but also indicated
any expedition which had no clear or practical objective a stroll,
a visit without asking a favor, or to drive all over town at the
galungan holiday in a dog cart. Pugig uttered a sardonic farewell
to Durus as he got into the front seat, and we drove off to
Rendah's polite hope that we would have no accident.
Two hours later we were sitting in the Javanese restaurant
across the square from the great palace of Karangasem. This was
the last town for a hundred miles, and as we sat at the counter
eating fried rice and skewers of goat's kidneys which the cook
gently grilled over a charcoal fire, I studied the map. The road
now ran along the stony edge of island until it reached Bulel6ng.
Countless small roads branched inland towards the mountains,
to join one another or simply come to an end. I decided to keep
off the main road as much as possible, for it was in the villages
of the hills that I thought I should be most likely to find what
I was looking for.
It was late in the afternoon when I told Kesyur to stop the
car just' beyond a village on the slope of the mountain. Here at
last were some trees beneath which I could pitch the tent, and
after searching for a while I found a level place a quarter of a
mile from the road. The tent went up without any trouble, and
before it was dark Kesyur had already found wood and started
a fire. Durus unpacked and began putting things in order an
air mattress, a folding chair and table, the dominoes and the
gramophone. It was very much like home.
This activity was not long in attracting an audience. Out of
nowhere appeared an old man, two youths and a small child, to
watch in blank wonder. I offered the old man a glass of arac,
but he shook his head.
But I ask for a cigarette, he was finally able to bring himself
to say. He sat down on the ground near the table. The others
gravely sat down behind him.
Tuan is from where? Tuan is proceeding where? asked the
old man politely.
Melalli, I replied.
Ah, was all he said.
Conversation would have died had it not been for Durus and
Kesyur. Now was the time for the gramophone, I thought, for I
had brought it along for just such moments. I opened the ma-
chine and put on a gamelan record. With incredulous delight
they listened, too amazed to speak. But by the time the record
was finished they had already accepted the surprising object as a
charming plaything, incomprehensible indeed, yet no more
wonderful than the tent or my transparent oilskin raincoat that
hung from the tent line. One of the boys asked softly if the box
knew any songs from the arja play. Whatever only! said Kesyur
importantly as I put on the requested record. A thin tremulous
voice rose in the air above the faint sound of drums.
What style! remarked the old man. What a beautiful voice!
The high nasal voice had been well trained. It was the famous
singer from Bulel6ng, Ni Limon Miss Lemonade. Her voice
was graceful, flexible, and full of little runs. I had not expected
to find such keen appreciation in this remote spot, so far from
any town. As we sat there listening to the records, relaxed and
friendly, I thought I might now begin to ask for information.
I said I had heard that in these parts men still made bamboo
angklungs in the ancient way.
They thought. Not here, but it was said that in the village of
Chulik, far away to the east . . .
How far? Oh, at least ten miles . . .
As we talked I thought I heard the sound of a gong, the beat-
ing of drums in the distance. The men were practicing in the
village, said one of the boys. They were training a new gandrung
dancer. Durus and I left Kesyur to watch the tent, and walked
in the direction of the village.
In the clubhouse the men were startled to see me appear out
of the dark, but they did not stop playing. The dancer was a
listless boy of fourteen, with apathetic eyes, and feet out of
time with the drums, and he went through the ambiguous, ef-
feminate gestures of the dance as though his mind were far
away. The musicians too seemed strangely apathetic, while the
gamelan sounded thin and out of tune. It was an incomplete
Gamelan of Semara, the Love God, never intended for dancing
to, and as I watched the boy I wondered how he could move at
all. The gaiety and bold sensuality of the dance depended on
the light brittle tones of an orchestra of xylophones; here the
echoing tones of the gongs simply slowed down the dancer's
I had not been standing there long before a man came up and
introduced himself as the village perbekel. Just arrived? he
asked politely. I was from where? he wanted to know. On my
way in what direction? He apologized for the gandrung's per-
formance, saying they had no teacher. But when I asked him
why the men used the Gamelan of Love for such a dance, he
looked surprised, and said, What other gamelan could you pos-
I sat watching, and thinking how unmistakably the pulse and
temper of a whole village were revealed through its musicians.
Some gamelans were all flash and fire, some filled with mystery.
Some were completely matter-of-fact, lacking any quality what-
ever. In this distant village the musical impulse that was so in-
tense in the center of the island had all but spent itself. The
perbekel himself seemed a mere shell of a man, polite, correct,
but dry and bleached as the soil of the surrounding country. I
was delighted to find, however, that he knew of at least three
villages near by where I would find the angklungs I was looking
for. One I had already passed through, while another lay farther
up in the hills; the third was in Chulik, down by the sea, and
this last, he thought, was the best, for the men knew the greatest
number of melodies.
It was after eight when I bade the perbekel good-by and left.
At the tent we found Kesyur fanning the fire and talking to the
old man, who apparently had not been able to tear himself away.
The others had gone. Kesyur astonishingly had prepared a meal;
he had killed one of the chickens and broiled it; he had made a
stew of breadfruit and steamed a pot of rice. He and Durus
would not eat with me, but insisted on serving me as though I
were at home. Kesyur received my rather elaborate praise (I had
never seen him so much as slice a piece of ginger) in injured
silence. He had turned morose, suddenly depressed at being far
away in a strange and quiet land. He disappeared with the old
man, saying he must guard the car.
Durus, on the other hand, was in high spirits. He found the
expedition an adventure. He set everything in order, and care-
fully put out the fire before he came into the tent. He lay there
beside me, refusing to go to sleep and softly singing verse after
verse of plaintive melody from the beloved arja play. The words
were ineffably sad the lament of a deserted princess, cruelly
abused by a wicked stepmother; of a prince, beautiful as a
golden god, sick as a wounded deer for love of the princess who
loves him not. He paused. From a corner of the tent a cricket
chirped. Outside a breeze stirred. He began again, about a prin-
cess who chased a golden dragonfly into the forest and was car-
ried off by a demon king. But at last Durus' voice died out and
he fell asleep.
Chulik lay at the edge of the stony wasteland that ran along
the northeast coast, between the mountains and the sea. It was
a tiny village, dry and dusty, and when I stopped at the market
to ask the way to the house of the village klian, men and women
stared and small children ran to their mothers. I told Kesyur to
ask about the gamelan, but this was impossible for him to bring
himself to do. Pride, as usual, interfered, and he would willingly
have died rather than show the least ignorance of anything be-
fore a stranger, above all before these barbarians. It was Durus
who finally got out and spoke to a market-woman. His voice was
soft and disarming,
[ero, I offer my ignorance. They say there is a gamelan with
angklungs in this village.
Durus paused to consider how to continue.
Jero, I beg indeed your pardon; but perhaps you could tell me
where this gamelan is to be found.
She had no idea; but a boy standing by informed us it was
kept in the house of the klian.
But the klian had gone to Karangasem and would not return
before nightfall. It was late morning, with a searing sun, and I
thought longingly of Sayan, where at this moment the skies
would be overcast with heavy rainclouds. I looked on the map
for th possibility of a more inviting place to spend the night.
We took the road that turned down to the sea, and soon came
to the little fishing village of Ahmed, a cluster of huts in an oasis
of mangoes and palms. Here on the shore, just beyond the vil-
lage, Durus and Kesyur opened the tent beside the fishing-praus
that lay drawn up in the shade. There was nothing to do now
but wait for evening, when I could return to Chulik. I sent Du-
rus to the marketplace to buy some food already cooked, but
all he could find were some little charred packages of baked fish,
very dry and salty, a few preserved duck-eggs and some cooked
fern-shoots. This, however, with a handful of cold rice, formed
a repast that was sustaining if austere. Durus mixed a glass of
coconut-water and rum, and I settled back in my chair facing
the sea and opened a torn volume of Proust.
But I was not to have the afternoon to myself, for it was not
long before a deputation of three elderly men from the village
approached to pay a formal call. They ceremoniously introduced
themselves and sat down. In the course of the most leisurely,
the most gentle of conversations it was disclosed that they had
come to find out who the stranger was, his origins, his inten-
tions. That I was here in search of gamelans only half satisfied
them, but they politely passed to other things. Soon they were
talking of ancient Bali and their own ancient lineage; of local
adat, or law and custom, of equal antiquity and so different, it
seemed, from elsewhere. They were Bali Aga, real Balinese, they
stated with dignity, descended from the mountains. They could
trace their ancestry back, back, to a time long before the coming
of the Javanese princes, of the Hindus even . . .
Of the guild of smiths, he said. His father had been a crafts-
man in gold.
They nodded. A smith, whether he worked in bronze or iron,
was of the same remote and honorable ancestry. Even a rajah
must use the "high" language, speak formally when addressing
a smith . . .
It was during this peaceful conversation that I learned of the
sacred gamelan in the ancient village Tenganan, so holy that it
was forbidden for an outsider even to touch it, for it had come
from heaven long ago, beyond the memory of man.
But in Bungaya, it seemed, there was one still older, the gift
of the God of the Sea. The oldest of the three men related its
Long ago the men of Bungaya, far up in the mountains, were
walking by the sea. All at once, from beneath the waves, they
heard the sound of music like nothing they had heard before,
and as they listened, the instruments appeared above the surface
of the water, still sounding. One by one they were washed ashore
by the waves, although they were of heavy iron. But the men of
Bungaya did not dare to touch them and went back to their
village. Their priest told them to return, make offerings on the
shore, and bring the instruments to Bungaya.
The instruments were placed in the temple and honored.
Time passed, but they were never used, for no one knew how
they should be played. One day, as the village elders sat in the
temple, a white raven flew down from the sky and perched in a
tree above their heads. From this bird the elders learned the five
different modes, and the melodies of these modes, whose names
and tones it is forbidden to reveal to strangers.
Even today, said the old man, the people of Bungaya must
sit in reverence as the instruments are carried out of the temple.
These instruments may not pass beneath bridges or even tele-
phone wires. When, during a procession to the sea, the people
of Bungaya come to these wires they cut them down, and pay
without complaining for the cost of reparation. One day, as they
passed through a neighboring village, the men and women stood
in doorways and laughed at this ancient gamelan. But they were
sorry later, for not long afterwards their village caught fire, for
no apparent reason . . .
The shadows lengthened. The fishermen began to drag their
boats to the water's edge. The old men rose and departed, and
as Kesyur had found a boy to watch the tent, we got into the
car and drove back to Chulik.
The klian was drinking coffee at the marketplace. I told him
why I had come, saying I had heard of the most excellent gamelan
in this village, and that I was sorry there was no feast at the mo-
ment where I could hear it, as I had come from far away. Would
it not be possible, I asked cautiously, for the men to assemble
and play, if only for a short time, since in my part of the country
there were no angklungs . . . Perhaps if I offered them five
guilders to buy sirih?
The klian was thoughtful. This was something without prece-
dent. There was no law to forbid, but he must first consider all
possible dangers. He finally agreed. Tonight, of course, was im-
possible; it was too late. (By that he meant, too late to break the
news; too late for the men to grasp the situation; too late for
them to come to an agreement, take out the instruments, get in
the mood to play.) But if I would return tomorrow, when the
sun stood there (he pointed) in the sky, the men would be
waiting in the clubhouse pavilion. I thanked him. But I had one
more request. Might I see the instruments before I left?
My impatience for immedate action was both unnatural and
incomprehensible. He clearly hated having to make up his mind,
then and there. But courtesy prevailed, and after hesitating a
while he assented.
It was now night, and the courtyard of the perbekeFs house
was pitch-black, except for a feeble lamp that hung in one of
the pavilions. He unlocked the door to the gecfong, a small
building with four stone walls, and I turned on my flashlight.
Drums, gongs and instruments I had never seen before lay piled
together on the floor. And the angklungs? I asked.
The perbekel disentangled a strange object. It vaguely re-
sembled a harp in shape; within an upright frame hung three
bamboo tubes of different lengths, and when the perbekel shook
the frame to and fro the tubes produced a strange hollow rattle,
soft and musical. A more primitive instrument could hardly be
imagined, and yet, as with so many primitive implements, there
was both ingenuity and science, for the tubes diminished in
mathematical ratio to create a harmony that was surprisingly
pure. As I listened to the sounds the centuries fell away; a
golden age echoed in the bamboo tubes.
Kesyur and Durus looked in blank astonishment They were
not impressed. The perbekel locked the door, called into the
darkness for another lamp, and led me to the main pavilion.
The gamelan, which belonged to the village, was taken out
and played only when there was "work in the temple/' or during
the rites that accompanied the cremation of the dead. The rest
of the time it was stored. It was the same in other villages near
by, added the perbekel; Prasi, Mega Tiga, Poh . . .
But are there no other music clubs in the village?
None. There is an arja company in Kangkang, a shadowplay
in Ngis, but that is all. We are simple people.
He walked with me to the gate. Once more I reminded him
of tomorrow. Agreed! It is certain! I said good night and left.
B6h! It's empty in this country! exclaimed Kesyur. I would
die here! Durus agreed. In his village by this time all would be
animation. The arja club would be practicing. The square in
front of the great temple would be filled with twinkling lamps;
the women would be there with their tables of food; the little
gambling-tables would be crowded. We drove along in silence.
The tent was deserted. It was up to me to keep the two boys
from being attacked by that sudden depression and boredom
that can descend on a Balinese without a moment's warning.
We built a fire, turned on the gramophone. To the strains of
Mood Indigo the chicken fought as Kesyur slit its throat. Two
or three strangers appeared from out of the dark, to sit at the
edge of the circle of light from the lamp and silently watch.
They looked on in uncomprehending sympathy as Durus, then
Kesyur, won a little pile of cash when later we played a few
hands of rummy.
As we drove into Chulik the next afternoon I heard the sound
of strange wild music down the road, so different from anything
I had yet heard on the island that my heart began to beat with
the anticipation of discovery. An unbelievable array of instru-
ments filled the pavilion angklungs, xylophones, g'nd6rs, gongs
and cymbals. The men had already given themselves up to the
music, lost in the reverberations of sound that eddied and
swirled about them.
It was a barbaric symphony, an unheard-of blend of primitive
sonorous materials, of metal, wood and hollow reeds. The mel-
ody rose ringing and metallic from the g'nddrs, far above the
other instruments. Cymbals clashed, little gongs murmured;
the dry notes of the xylophones clicked like hail. But it was the
strange notes of the angklungs which gave the music its primeval
resonance. One after another, in rapid but irregular succession,
they trembled as the players shook them, creating a mysterious
tremolo background, insistent, soft, like the low sound of wind
in the lalang grass.
Over and over, like a record caught in a groove, the melody
repeated, relentless, without the least change of expression. It
had a very narrow range, for there were only four different notes
in the scale of the instruments, and the completely strange rela-
tion of these tones to each other, the strangeness of their tuning,
gave the music a quality I cannot describe, created an atmos-
phere of incredible antiquity. It was like tracking music to its
Once again I felt that exultation I had suddenly known the
day I first arrived on the island, when I stood listening in the
Chinese temple in Bulel6ng. On and on the men played, on and
on swept the melody, carrying you along with it in the reitera-
tion that was both mechanical and hypnotic. Suddenly, without
warning, the music stopped. What brought the men to a final
halt I could not determine at all.
Crow Stealing Eggs, said the perbekel.
But when I asked him the meaning of the title, Ah! He could
not say. It was old, very old! Perhaps from the very begin-
ning . . .
Once more the men began. I thought I could hear a slight
difference in the melody, but I could not say where. It might as
well have been the same piece as far as change went. And yet I
could not find this music monotonous, for there was something
which kept urging it on, some inner rhythm, far below the sur-
face, which the ear began to follow instead. As the melody re-
turned to its starting point, to repeat once more, there was a
sudden agitation of drums, an accent from a gong, causing each
time a feeling of suspense and a new release, like the endless
flow of waves rolling one after the other to break along the
White Horse, announced the perbekel.
But again he could not account for the title. On the men
played, with tireless energy. Toad Climbs Pawpaw; Cow Drinks;
Burning Lalang Grass; Hibiscus Flower. I had taken out my note-
book and was writing furiously. It was not difficult to note the
melodies as they were played by the g'nders, for I could fill in
and correct during the repetitions.
It grew late. The last rays of the sun shot through the pavil-
ion, lighting up the players, casting fantastic shadows. Suddenly
I felt I could not listen to another note. I was completely ex-
hausted. I told Durus to offer the money I had promised to the
musicians, and to tell them that a few leaves of sirih were poor
return for the pleasure they had given.
As the perbekel walked with me to the car I asked him if the
performance could be repeated the next afternoon. I wished to
listen again, hear more of this wild music, take moving pictures
of the musicians as they played. The perbekel agreed; the instru-
ments could be left out overnight, and there would be no diffi-
I spent a happy hour the following day making pictures.
When at last I was satisfied we moved the gamelan back in the
pavilion, to begin where we had left off the night before. I
wished to hear again one of the pieces I had written down, and
asked for White Horse. The men looked blank. They consulted.
White Horse? Was there such a piece? Only after several false
starts were they able to begin, but the melody was that of Toad
Climbs Papaya. Then I asked for Drinking Cow, but what I
heard was Burning Grass.
At last I spoke, saying that yesterday they had played differ-
ently for White Horse. They looked astounded. Could it be?
They began again. But now the tune was Hibiscus Flower.
I took my notes and sat down by a g'nd6r. I felt professorial
indeed as I said, But yesterday White Horse went like this! I
picked up a g'nder-stick and began to play, reading from the
page beside me on the floor.
A miracle! Mystification! Delight! They burst out laughing.
Of course; indeed; the superior writing! Soon they had joined
in, soon we were playing together as though we had been doing
so all our lives.
It was clear the titles were mere labels. It mattered little, after
all, what the tune was called, for the men took their cue from
the soft brief introduction that was first heard on one of the
g'nders. This most casual of suggestions was enough. The tonal
sequence had been outlined, and now they had only to fall in,
unquestioningly, at the right moment, and the air became filled
The pieces they played resembled each other as the leaves on
a tree; no two were identical, yet to discover variation required
the closest scrutiny. As I sat there that night outside the tent,
watching the play of moonlight on the sea and thinking with
satisfaction of the last two days, I could not help smiling a little
at finding myself suddenly absorbed in noting deviations with
the eagerness of a naturalist. By the light of the lamp I looked
over the sheets of paper spread out on the table, comparing the
minute irregularities I found so charming in each melody. I
knew I would not be satisfied until I had written down the last
phrase of music the men could remember. I wanted to hear
every gamelan in the countryside. Each leaf of the tree was
precious; one could only know the tree by tracing the contour
of every leaf.
What can you do with all these notes? asked Durus as he
came into the tent
I shall write a book sometime, I said.
He was quiet for a time. Then, when I thought he had fallen
asleep, he suddenly asked, Could I sell this book, would it bring
But I was too sleepy to answer. Perhaps, I said . . .
I passed a week among the villages scattered around the foot
of the mountains, listening to gamelans, taking photographs,
talking to musicians. Poh, Muntig, Kebon, Babi, the story was
the same. The instruments were unlocked only at the time of
cremations and temple anniversaries. Sometimes the men were
friendly and eager to answer questions; sometimes they were shy
and remote, refusing to respond, doubtful of my intrusion.
Flying Fox; Fighting Cats; One Hundred Cash and Some
False Silver. They seemed strange titles for music intended for
the gods or the rites of death. As I considered this I thought of
a funeral procession I had once seen in a Mexican village. It
was raining, and as the line slowly wound its way to the cemetery
a small band followed in the rear, playing, in the same curiously
detached way, on a tune that seemed equally irrelevant, The
Darktown Strutters' Ball.
Kesyur was sulking. Durus had grown restless. We had stayed
away too long. But their spirits immediately rose to a peak when
one morning I announced the welcome news that we were going
home. By way of Buleleng, I added, where we could go to the
Bioscope that evening. This had the intended effect. Once more
the excursion had the air of "plesir." Objective had been at-
tained, no longer existed. Once more it was melalli.
We drove sixty miles to dine festively at the Chinese restau-
rant and sit through an interminable Tom Mix film. The
audience scented the plot in the first three minutes. They rec-
ognized at once the prince, the princess and demon king. They
cheered the fights and flights as though they were at the shadow-
play. They rose jeering and slightly scandalized at the final em-
brace and laughingly filed out the doors into the night.
THE main house was now finished. It had been built in the
style of a theater pavilion, and the long veranda was large
enough to hold both gamelan and dancers. A wide lower step
ran around the entire pavilion where an audience might sit and
look on. It would also make possible the etiquette of caste
should I have visitors of different rank at the same time.
At one end of the pavilion, where the curtains that concealed
the actors might have hung, I had closed off a room for my
piano and books. Above was a little balcony which overlooked
the veranda. Here I wrote. The pavilion stood at the very edge
of the cliff, and as I looked out from the balcony through the
break in the sloping roof, out and down over the ravine and
curving river, it was like looking out from a plane.
News of the house had begun to spread, and strangers passing
through the village now wandered in, ignoring Pugig completely,
to sit on the lower step and contemplate the construction. One
afternoon Durus came up to the sleeping-house in a state of
excitement. The Regent of Gianyar was below. I was barely
awake, and as I splashed myself with cold water in the bath I
wondered what could be the object of this visit.
I found the Anak Agung striding majestically up and down.
He greeted me as a lord might his highest vassal, saying he had
come to look at my house. Short, heavy, incredibly overbearing,
he had the air of melodramatic tyrant, with a face that was a
masterpiece of sensuality, cruelty and cunning. His sarong and
headcloth were arranged in extravagant folds. Enormous moon-
stones buttoned his white official jacket, and his fingers were
heavy with rings.
On the lower step of the veranda sat three old and obviously
highborn attendants with his wallet of betel leaves, his golden
box of betel nut and his golden-handled kris. They sat in aristo-
cratic silence, clasping their hands and bowing in a sembah each
time the Regent tossed a word in their direction.
Nothing escaped the speculative glance of the Anak Agung.
His eyes narrowed as he asked the price of the piano or the pea-
cock-chairs. He approved the floor which had been polished with
pumice and now shone like green marble. He found the carving
in the pillars good, though the lacquer was too thin. The bam-
boos beneath the thatch would have wormholes within five
years, and I had been done on the thatch, but he admired the
long board above our heads which hid the angle of the roof,
carved with astronomical figures that Made Tantra had covered
in gold. He turned to the doors. They came from an old palace,
and were cawed in the Chinese style with leaves, flowers and
birds. They had been gnawed at the bottom by rats, and the
Regent could not understand why I did not have a door like the
one at the District Office. He suggesed a motor to pump water
from the ravine; it would also give me electric light. Once more
his gaze swept the place, resting for a moment on Durus as he
set the tea on the lawn.
His eyes met mine in a glance of insolent penetration.
The air is salubrious, he remarked, looking across the valley.
He turned to leave, adding unexpectedly that if I wished to hear
one of his palace gamelans at any time I had only to let him
know. Followed by his attendants he strode up the road to his
car, holding the trailing end of his sarong off the ground like a
king in the arja play.
He was still feared to the very borderlines of Gianyar. His
spies were everywhere, said Rendah. He knew of every nubile
and attractive girl in every village. He had many devious ways of
extracting money or seizing property, and only the most courage-
ous and "advanced" thought of taking these matters to court
before the Controlleur, for the revenge of the Regent, continued
Rendah, was like water that ran under the earth.
Soon after my arrival in Sayan the news spread in hushed de-
light that thieves had broken into the palace at night and stolen
the Anak Agung's three most precious krises. This, said Kesyur,
had clearly been done from a double motive. The krises were of
great value, for the hilts were thick with jewels. At the same
time the Regent had been disgraced, for the krises were full of
magic power, and were carefully guarded. Yet the guards must
have slept, the krises could not have been so charged with magic,
Kesyur said scornfully, if thieves could steal them so easily.
When at last the thieves were discovered and brought to trial
they insisted they had thrown the krises in the sea (though
everyone knew they had buried them), and cheerfully went off
to serve three years in jail. The Regent had first pled for con-
f ession by torture, but the Controlleur had refused. He had then
demanded their death, and on this too having been refused, he
had cried in anguish, But at least allow me to have their cars cut
off! In the old days, said Durus, they would certainly have been
put to torture. How? Oh, stuck with needles, perhaps ... Or
impaled, added Rendah, in a palm tree. The shoot of the new
leaf grew two feet a day, he amplified, and in two days would
open, scattering their arms and legs . . .
The Anak Agung, it seemed, could not bring himself to part
with a grain of rice. When for some gala occasion he hired a
troupe of actors from another district (thus being forced to pay
them) he gave them the minimum fee and offered them the
meagerest of leftovers from the feast, so that more than once I
heard the crowds scream as, in front of the palace during an
arja play, the comedians exposed the Regent under his nose.
Little brother, why are you so sad? Why do you look so ill?
Alas, older brother, how can I be gay? How can I act? I am
weak from lack of food. I shall die. A handful of yesterday's
rice! A single dried fish! One miserable shred of garlic for sea-
soning! Do you call that a supper for a poor man to dance on?
Here the clown collapsed completely, while the other searched
frantically in his wallet for food to revive him.
But in the palace of the Anak Agung stood a gamelan I had
long wished to hear. It was one of the few gamelans of Semara,
god of love, that still remained on the island. I had once heard
this gamelan for a short time, as it was brought out of the palace
for some event on the great square before the gates. Carved
with dragons and fantastic blossoms, shining with lacquer and
gold, the instruments rang with an elegant, sweetly poignant
music which I had found enchanting. I was now glad of the
Regent's invitation, and intended to take advantage of it as soon
as possible. In Sayan I had begun to miss the sound of music at
night, for only rarely did the deep note of a gong or the beating
of drums disturb the silence, and then only from a great dis-
Above all I missed the activity of Kedaton and the sound of
Nyoman KaWs gamelan rehearsing, and I had begun to won-
der if it might not be possible to form some such club in Sayan:
I must try to think of some way to bring music back once more
to the village and set the boys and men practicing again. Yet I
still felt a stranger in Sayan, and could not make up my mind
exactly what to do.
One morning, as I sat in the little coffee-stall under the ban-
yan at the marketplace, chatting with Chokorda Rahi and
watching the women bring in their wares, for it was market-day,
I said that if he would call his musicians together again to prac-
tice, I would ask Nyoman Kaler to Sayan to train new legong
dancers. Didn't he think, I asked, that the village was at the mo-
ment rather lacking in diversion?
He agreed. But when Nyoman came he could not find three
children whom he could possibly teach. To choose the chondong,
the little girl who would take the part of the attendant, was easy
enough. But for the two others, who must be supple, and deli-
cately formed, he searched in vain. We could not find a satis-
factory pair that matched. One was too tall, another too stiff.
Another was pretty but clearly too absent-minded. A fourth
would have done, had she not squinted. He gave up. If you had
only built a house in Kedaton, he said, instead of going far off
among mountain people . . .
The whole problem was soon to be solved almost without my
knowing it through Sampih, a small boy who had already been
living in my house for some time.
I HAD first made his acquaintance not long after the coolies
had begun work on the house.
One afternoon I had gone down the hillside to the river and
waded to the other side to walk along the edge of the ricefields
which ran down to within a few yards above the level of the
water. A crowd of small boys splashed in midstream, leaping
from rock to rock. Their wet brown skins shone in the sun as
they danced up and down in the ecstasy of nakedness. They
were completely wild, agile and delirious as a treeful of monkeys.
The river was shallow at this spot, but farther up it ascended
in a series of cascades and disappeared between two walls of
rock. These rivers have quick floods after sudden heavy rains in
the mountains; they are normal one moment, and the next, with
a rush and roar, an unexpected tidal wave may sweep down, cut-
ting a deeper gash into the land, and carrying with it trees, cattle
and even men.
It was while I was walking along the river's edge that one of
these floods occurred. The skies in the mountains were black,
and now, suddenly, there was a warning rumble in the gorge.
The children heard it at once and leapt for shore. It was not a
big flood; it merely raised the river a foot or so as it rushed down
in muddy swirling eddies, I started back, for it seemed easy
enough to cross by wading and jumping, but I soon found my-
self in deep water where the current was far too strong. The
children shouted excited directions from shore, but I could not
hear what they were saying. It was then that one of the more
boisterous, one whom I had already noticed as the leading spirit,
threw himself into the water, swam to a boulder and jumped
over to where I was struggling. He knew by heart every shallow
and hollow in the river bed, for he quickly led me ashore by
pointing here, shouting not to go there. I understood one word
in ten, but the inflections of his voice were enough. When we
reached land this naked, dripping youngster and I stood facing
one another. He was perhaps eight, underfed and skimpy, with
eyes too large for his face, daring and slightly mocking. I offered
him a cigarette, but he suddenly took fright and was off into
the water before I could say a word.
It was a week before I saw him again. I had gone over to talk
with Gusti Lusuh about the house. Several children stood watch-
ing the coolies; they fled the moment they saw me, but not be-
fore I had recognized my guide of the week before.
Who is he, the largest?
A small man from the ravine below; he lives in a field hut.
Gusti Lusuh pointed to a cluster of tiny huts down the valley,
adding morosely, A little thief!
What is his name?
The next time I saw him he was alone. He lingered a moment
as I came down the path, watching me, estimating each step.
When I got nearer than his nerves could possibly bear, he was
off over the side of the cliff. It was like approaching a small wild
animal. But one day he stood his ground, returned my glance,
and cautiously approached to take the cigarette I held out.
It wasn't long before we were friends and he found himself
daring to do the coveted thing, ride in a motorcar. He sat beside
Kesyur, terrified and delighted. We drove to Den Pasar and his
eyes opened wide at the smooth lawn of the Assistant Resident's
house, the line of shops on the main street An explosive B6h!
burst from his lips. I gave him a ten-cent piece, and he walked
down the street hand in hand with Kesyur to buy a dubious-
looking ice and five packets of Javanese cigarettes.
This excursion marked a step in our relationship, for I had
taken him to a foreign land and brought him safely back. The
experience had not been too terrifying. But the next time, as we
crossed to the north side of the mountains on our way to Bule-
leng, he was nearly frightened out of his wits as we descended
into this strange country. Where's north? he cried. I pointed
straight ahead. Kesyur pointed backwards.
Kesyur was actually right, for "north" has a flexible meaning.
It refers to the mountains that run across the center of the
island. "South" means seawards. Once you have crossed over
the mountains these directions are automatically reversed. Only
east and west remain unchanged. Thus a southerner in the north
is hopelessly confused. More than confused actually ill with
uneasiness. It is worse than being drunk. For Balinese are so
conscious of themselves in relation to the points of the compass
that they are helpless if they lose sight of them. A road does not
turn left; it turns west. You move a table to the southwest; a pen
on the table lies northeast of the ink bottle.
The experienced Kesyur explained, but Sampih would not be
convinced. He slumped in the seat, miserable, joyless. Suddenly
as we came to the sea he cried out once more,
Beh! What's that?
What's that, the ocean?
Ach, stupid, it's water.
Look, look! It's coming up all over the land. We'll be washed
What simple talk! Those are only waves.
What a number of things to talk about once safely home!
From now on, in spite of these dangers, Sampih was sure to
appear sooner or later, when I came to Sayan, to stand near the
car, silently begging to be invited into the front seat. One day I
asked him if he would like to work at the house when it was
finished; he could take the ducks to the ricefields, peel onions
for Rantun the cook. This proposal frightened him so much that
it was a week before I saw him again. There was no further allu-
sion to the matter; but soon there grew a tacit agreement be-
tween us, and it was taken for granted by everyone that he would
become one of the household.
Sampih's father scratched a living from a few acres that juttec
between the cliff and the river. He raised a little rice and a fev
banana plants. He was a handsome man, shy and smiling ii
public, brutal at home, often away for days on some amator
expedition. His wife was a small thin woman, no more shrewisl
than another, with an elfin face and eyes that reflected craft
trouble and pathos. The household was completed by two smal
girls, still of the age to run naked, and an old man, a vague rela
tive, who sat all day uselessly whittling. The family was startlec
indeed when I appeared one day to ask if Sampih might wori
at the house. The dog howled; the children hid. Sampih's
mother stopped dead as she saw me. It was Sampih who led me
to sit in a place of honor and called out for bananas for my re-
freshment. But we grew at ease, and on a later visit it was agreed
that Sampih should work at the house. He could sleep there or
come home at night as he pleased.
I thought you a demon at first, Sampih confided one day; that
is why I was afraid to come and live in your house. At first I did
A demon? But why?
Beh! Your round eyes! Your great voice! Your white skin!
Since when does a demon have white skin?
He considered this.
But you live beside the graveyard, and there was word that
you dared to eat fire.
This, I discovered, referred to the fact that I had taught Ran-
tun to make pancalces with burning rum. As she watched me
show Pugig how to ignite them and serve them still in flames
she was frightened half to death. Later, however, she would often
send word around the village when she planned to make them,
so that people might come and see. They sat in the dark, out-
side the veranda, silent and wondering.
It was not long, however, before Sampih was begging Pugig
to let him light them himself and bring them to the table.
Soon after Sampih came to live at the house his parents made
a formal call. Sampih's father wore sarong, kris, white shirt and
an old train-conductor's cap. His mother had on a bkck winding
skirt, with a new bath towel wound above her breasts. On her
head she carried a stand piled with fruit. They sat on the floor
at the edge of the veranda and thanked me for taking their child.
Sampih's mother did the talking, uttering long cliches of polite-
ness in an affected voice; her husband said nothing at all after
the opening words, I crave indulgence.
They relaxed somewhat after Pugig placed cigarettes and the
arac bottle on the floor beside them. Sampih's mother now be-
gan a long tale of family connections across the river in Bang-
kasa. Her voice cracked and cackled, and when at last she paused
for breath I asked her about Sampih.
She drew in her breath and began again, this time in a new
voice, whining and rhetorical. Up and down her voice trailed,
steeped in sudden self-pity.
Trouble . . . trouble . . . Difficult from the time he could walk.
Naughty . . . disobedient . . . daring . . . One day his father beat
me. Sampih grew very angry. He hit his father. Then his father
beat him, hard, hard. When his father was not looking, Sampih
stole his purse and ran away. I cried . . . cried! He was still so
small. No one knew where he had gone. When I went to sell
at the market in Mengwi I asked, Is Sampih here? No one had
seen him. When I went to sell in Ubud I asked, Have you seen
my child, I Sampih? But always no! Lost . . . lost . . . After
a month he came home. Hard ... so very hard!
Sampih listened to this narrative indifferently.
How did you live while you were away?
I hid in the house of my uncle. I went as far as the mountains.
When the money was spent I came home.
How old is this Sampih? I asked.
Mother and father looked at each other. I heard bits of
phrases; died of fever before the earthquake . . .
The father spoke at last. I offer my ignorance; perhaps four
Sampih's mother was indignant. Indeed not! Eleven, most
It was a few months later that I came home unexpectedly one
evening to find the phonograph on the floor, playing the loudest
and most syncopated gamelan record, and Sampih seated beside
it improvising a wild kebyar dance. He was showing off to Durus
and Pugig, and although he stopped the moment he saw me it
was not before I had a glimpse of melodramatic gestures, co-
quettish eyes and flashing hands that caught with surprising pre-
cision the violent and abrupt accents of the music. But nothing
would induce him to go on. This little performance was for his
own private amusement, something intended for the two boys
but not for me.
That night I questioned Durus.
Oh, he often plays the phonograph when you are away. He
is always dancing.
But can he?
He could . . . His eyes are beautiful, and he can make his
face very sweet. It is too bad his skin is dark and rough . . .
Durus spoke with the cold appraisal of one raised in the
theater. It was not for nothing that he came from Batuan, famed
for its actors and dancers.
Each night I played the phonograph, hoping to lure Sampih
back into another mood of exhibitionism. One night, in an over-
flow of high spirits, he suddenly begged,
Play a kebyar record.
As it played, I said slyly, Try dancing this one.
He had been laughing, but he stopped, looked astonished,
But I can't dance!
Ach, try! You did for Durus and Pugig only a week ago.
Fm too ashamed/
This I refused to believe. I started the machine again. All at
once he decided to please me. With head bent forward, eyes on
the floor he listened, waiting for the approach of a certain accent
when, without warning, he plunged into a fury of movement, as
a diver might plunge into a torrent. He sat there on the floor,
swaying this way and that from the waist, his arms outstretched
and his hands, reflected in the lamplight, flying about like birds.
He smiled, opened wide his eyes, narrowed them, grew stern and
threatening. He was an absurd little whirlwind, but I was fasci-
nated to see his unmistakable feeling for the feverish music as
he drooped with it or sprang into a theatrical pose on a ringing
Suddenly he stopped. His voice broke into high, excited
I can't go on: I don't know how.
Where did you learn this much?
Alone. I saw Gusti Raka once, at the big temple feast in
Would you like to dance like him?
Perhaps ... I don't know.
His voice fell. He sat there, suddenly depressed, silent, once
more remote, negative. He went out; but a few minutes later
there were the familiar sounds of shouting and laughter from
the kitchen, Sampih's voice high above the rest His mood had
reached another phase.
I thought about this little scene for a week. One night I
watched him as he brought in the lamps; he was singing to him-
self, and as he went out he struck the heroic pose of the baris
dancer, striding down the veranda to the sound of an imaginary
gamelan, and indicating the gong-accents by chanting
Gong . . . Pur-r-r . . . K'mpli . . . Pur-r-r . . .
It was then that I had the sudden idea of an experiment. I
wanted Sampih to study dancing. I had several reasons: I wanted
to see what would happen; I was curious to know if his instinct
for drama held any real germ for development; I also wanted to
watch the process of teaching.
The problem lay in the choice of a dance-style. Kebyar has no
tradition, has very little formality; moreover, most of the dancers
I had seen seemed to suffer from a lack of any classical back-
ground or training. Yet what was there for Sampih to study at his
age? Nandir had long since disappeared. Legong was for girls. He
was too young for baris. There remained only gandrung, and here
I anticipated a scene, for the dance was that of a boy dressed and
dancing as though he were a girl. After a solo which displayed
the dancer's skill, partners stepped forth, and the performance
was one of flirtation. It was unusual in this part of the island,
and for that reason unpopular, though old Rendah came out
with the surprising news that he had been a gandrung dancer
when he was little older than Sampih.
I went first to Nyoman Kaler. I told him the tale; he was not
impressed. But he agreed to return with me to Sayan. He tight-
ened his headcloth before a mirror, took up his sirih-pouch and,
after calling to his wives that he was off to Sayan, followed me
to the car.
Who is that person? asked Sampih suspiciously as he brought
my coffee next morning.
The teacher of legong in Kedaton. How would you really like
to learn to dance?
Beh! Where is Kedaton? I would not dare.
A boy your age? Kedaton is a fine village, near Den Pasar,
with shadowplays every night.
I would not dare!
If I gave you a flashlight . . .
This he considered, so that when Nyoman appeared to say,
disarmingly, Tuan says you like dancing, he only answered,
I offer my ignorance; I am stupid; I know nothing at all.
Nyoman stood up. Come over here!
The boy went to him, and he took hold of a hand, turned it
gently, felt the wrist. He drew out the arm, bent it at the elbow,
felt the bones. Then he took hold of the head and turned it
from side to side, up and down.
Stiff as a nail! A real farmer's child! Smile!
A pathetic, drooping expression appeared around a mouth
that yesterday had done nothing but 'tease and shriek with
Well, he has a dimple, said Nyoman.
The face went blank.
Nyoman sat down on the floor and told Sampih to sit oppo-
site. He called for the phonograph. The music began, and with
the signal-accent he began to dance. He narrowed his eyes,
smiled with pedantic sweetness; his hands postured correctly.
Dance! he said; follow me; and Sampih began to move, mirror-
ing him at first, then going his own way as the music grew rapid.
The record stopped. Nyoman reached for his sirih; he spread
a leaf with lime and slowly rolled it. Then he put it in his
mouth, chewed a moment and spat.
It's like this, he began at last. He is not what you might call
stupid. But he has the body of a peasant. He will never be really
graceful. Think of Rindy, who is about the same age, and who
is already a good dancer. He is slender, supple; his skin is smooth
as silk. This one is like a wild animal, rough like a strong wind.
But his mouth is good, and his eyes are beautiful. He will never
dance well, but he could be perhaps an actor of strong parts. If
you wish, I will teach him for a while, for an actor must know
how to dance.
Sampih had listened to this summary as though we were dis-
cussing someone else, and now he got up and left.
I went down the hillside to break the news to Sampih's
mother. As she saw me she rested her pestle in the mortar she
was pounding and came forward.
Tuan! she said, speaking through the wad of tobacco that
stopped her mouth like a cork. She took it out. Tuan! she said
more distinctly. Tuan comes! she shouted over the pigsty into
the palms. Fetch a coconut!
Her voice sank to polite sweetness.
Welcome, tuan. My house is too unclean. I am poor, so poor!
With a polite thumb she indicated the hut with the highest ele-
vation. Please ascend; please be seated!
I gave a brief synopsis of the project.
She burst into tears, but she cried less with tears than pathetic
and picturesque lamentation. Her grief was not deep, but rather
the instantaneous reaction inspired by a remembrance of the
past, of her small child once more in a strange land, alone among
strange people, demons and unformulated dangers.
It is not what you might call far, I said. Kedaton is near Den
Pasar where you walk twice a week to sell rice. I will bring him
home often. Try to think: if he learns well, he will know how to
look for money when he is older.
The magic word brought her immediately to her senses. Things
became clear and practical.
He is tuan's child, she declaimed. I gave him and I asked
nothing. The great priest of Bangkasa has claimed him as budalc
(serf-attendant) but tuan desired him and I have given.
Her voice modulated by degrees from the depths of sorrow to
ecstatic enthusiasm. As for Sampih's fatherhe had nothing to
say. He agreed to everything with a smile and a bow.
When tuan buys the flashlight I want one -from Europa with
a ship trademark. Those from Japan are cheap and soon broken.
Sampih's yielding came at the end of a three-day battle, and
shortly afterwards I took him to Kedaton, bewildered but self-
possessed. I left, saying I'd be back in five days.
I had hoped I might interrupt a lesson when I returned five
days later. But Nyoman had discouraging news. No sooner had
I left than Sampih had lost his sense of direction. Although
Nyoman' had pointed fifty times to the north, he simply could
not remember. It was impossible to teach him; to say, take three
steps east, bend southwest, was simply talking in vain. He can't
even follow directions when I send him to market, said Nyoman.
When he turns the corner he is lost, and has to be brought back.
At that moment Sampih appeared, pathetic, lifeless, almost
sick, and as he saw me a look of utter relief came into his eyes.
I took him home, but he was silent as we drove back. The road
Wound this way and that through groves and valleys. At last we
came to the broad ricefields. The landscape grew familiar; to the
east rose the great cone of the Gunung Agung, misty, unreal,
yet strangely reassuring.
There's north! cried Sampih suddenly, pointing straight
ahead. He began to laugh. He was a different child.
The first thing he did when we reached the house was to run
to the cliff, look down the valley towards home. Far away a man
plowed in the field; two midgets followed a line of ducks that
shone white in the late afternoon sun. All was well. He ran
down the hillside, to remain at home for several days, until his
sense of safety had been restored.
The same thing happened all over again a week later. Nyoman
was baffled. I was about to take Sampih back in the car when I
remembered that down the road past the temple there were
some open fields. I told Sampih to follow me.
What mountains are those? I pointed.
And what is that over there to the east?
The Gunung Agung.
Then north . . .
Now you can't possibly forget again!
Once more I left him, and the next morning he began his
If you watch a Balinese dancer in a film without music you
receive a strange impression. The dance seems to be taking place
in slow motion. For a long time nothing happens. Suddenly, for
no apparent reason, the dancer is seized with an outburst of
energy, strikes pose after pose in rapid succession; whirls and
spirals in a f renzy, hands flying, shoulders quivering; as suddenly
falls into inertia. What is happening in the dancer's mind?
What muscular life, if any, is at play beneath the dancer's stiff
But look once more at the film to the sound of music. It is
at once apparent that a mysterious energy is sweeping through
the body of the dancer. Gestures that appeared relaxed and
casual are seen to be at a peak of tension. The rhythm of the
body, the halting of the hands, even the last movement of the
eyesall coincide to the last fraction of a second with the syn-
copated accents of the music. The dancer is the music, made
This is particularly true of the long introductory dances, be-
fore the story "emerges." Here the metric construction of the
music, even more than the melody, controls every progression,
every movement. The dancer, it is true, creates a mood that
prepares for the story which is to follow, but his movements, his
gestures and postures must be considered before all in relation
to the musical phrase. Sudden flumes of movement take their
impulse from the sudden flurries in the drums, whose accents
are now seen to be essentially quantitative. As the drums scan
the phrases so the dancer scans the music, and the beauty of this
part of the dance lies in the restraint, the abstract movement,
pure, impersonal, which fits the music like a glove.
As the story emerges, the dancer is freed. He now occupies
the foreground, while the music recedes, to supply a warmer
accompaniment, soft or agitated, playful or violent, depending
on the dramatic action which is taking place. But even now the
dancer's movements are conceived and learned in closest relation
to the phrase, while his hands, which form the "flowers" of the
dance, his eyes which give the "accents" must be rehearsed until
they and the flowers and accents of the music are one.
It was clear from the very beginning that Sampih preferred
those dances which told a story or portrayed a dynamic character.
He took forever in learning the opening dance, before the story
began. He was impatient with its slow unfolding, its measured
tempo, the restrictions which governed each movement of the
hands or eyes, each position of the foot. On the other hand he
learned with rapidity the violent and agitated dance of the
raven that foretells disaster as it flies across the path of king
Lasen, and in a short time he could give a spirited performance
of bapang, the dance of an official preparing the way for a noble.
At first Nyoman would stand behind him to hold him loosely
by the wrists, guiding him, impelling him, now this way, now
that. Humming softly, Nyoman managed to give an impression
of the whole gamelan as he went first from melody to gong-ac-
cent, or muttered a kepuka-puk-DAG fin imitation of the drums.
Indeed, as I watched Nyoman with Sampih, it seemed as though
he were playing some instrument, executing some languid g'nd6r-
phrase as he slowly drew the arms out, or thinking of the drums
as he agitated the hands in a series of rapid and intricate designs.
All this, however, was preliminary. It was only after Sampih was
able to go through the outline of the dance by himself that the
teaching really began.
Nyoman had two other pupils at this time: Rindy, a graceful
lad, somewhat older, who had been studying several months, and
Gatra, small, awkward, with the face of a good monkey. One
after another they would dance, while the other two looked on.
Stop! Nyoman would cry, to walk up and correct once more the
position of the dancer, turning the hand this way, the body that,
gently altering, modeling the pose until the body was a sculp
tural unity, invisibly framed, as though filling the panel of some
temple relief. Once more he would begin to hum, take the child
by the wrists and start him on his course. But soon the body
would be flying off in all directions, elbows above the shoulders,
hands clenched instead of gracefully opened.
Little by little the dance "entered." The positions of the body
grew more clearly defined; the hands became more precise. These
formal positions of the hands, these "flowers" of the dance, de-
rived from antique gestures of the priest. But now no inner
meaning, no mystic symbolism marred the purity of their beauty.
They told no story. Abstract and ornamental, they brought each
gesture to its ultimate fulfillment and gave the dance its final
Nyoman began planning a gala debut for the three boys. A day
auspicious for the launching of dancers was sought, and a theater
pavilion set up by the roadside. By nine in the evening of the
performance the road was blocked with people. The pavilion
was a blaze of lamps; the overture-music had begun, and the
bright sound of xylophones filled the air. But the dancers had
not yet arrived. They were still in the temple, praying to Panji,
hero and god of dancers and actors, that their "attempt" might
be successful. We drew up by the pavilion where we could sit
in the car and watch. The car was full: old Rendah, Durus, Sam-
pih's mother and two small sisters had come along. All sat star-
ing in silent wonder. Rendah spoke.
Which way is north?
Kesyur pointed, and he settled back to enjoy himself.
We waited. The music continued. At last, through the crowd,
the dancers appeared and made their way to the chairs in front
of the musicians. Their new costumes shone in the bluish light
of the air-pressure lamps that hung from the roof. Their faces
were white with powder, their eyebrows shaved and penciled,
and they sat there in the light, inanimate, the folds of their
costumes stiff and graceless.
There was a pause in the music. Nyoman entered, to sit down
and pick up a drum; the rapid bapang music began. Sampih
stood up. He looked incredibly small as he stood there listening
for his cue. His headdress was a bit too large; his winding skirt
dragged slightly. I knew he was thinking of this in shame.
He opened his arms with the sudden thrust that meant he was
parting curtains. He stepped forth, eyes wide, "searching for
danger." He began to dance, slowly advancing, darting suddenly
from side to side. No one considered it strange that he was a
small boy, in girl's costume, doing a girl's interpretation of a
high official. The audience watched as though they were watch-
ing a puppet in the shadowplay.
He was nervous. But his nervousness was beautifully concealed
by the stylization of the dance, and he managed to give an ade-
quate performance. Yet where, I wondered, was the wild child
who had danced so ecstatically that night to the sound of the
gramophone? I could recognize his temperament, now so sub-
dued and hidden, only in the last few bars of the music, when
all at once, as though from bravado, he seemed to open up, ex-
pand defiantly, and come to a triumphant end. It was now
Sampih's mother had been watching in silence. Behl she finally
exclaimed. That Sampih! She gave a rusty little laugh and fished
in her sash for a leaf of betel.
Rindy was now dancing. He was very sure of himself. Slender,
tall for his age, hidden coquetry in every glance, he moved with
a cool grace that charmed the onlookers. Golden wings were
attached to his arms, but instead of an ill-omened bird you had
the impression of a flirtatious peacock.
The music stopped; the dancers left. There was to be no per-
formance of the actual gandrung dance, when partners might
step forth from the crowd. The audience dispersed.
As Sampih, followed by Nyoman, came up to the car, he gave
me a look of utter disfavor and reproach. He silently got into the
front seat, holding tightly the small suitcase that contained his
costume. He was to have danced a second time, but this, said
Nyoman, he refused to do. We said good night and Kesyur
started the car.
Why wouldn't you dance again? I asked.
I was too ashamed! My costume was all wrong! I hate dancing!
Besides, Nyoman Kaler would not let me dance the raven!
He was jealous! He thinks only of Rindy!
Nonsense, I said.
But how can tuan know? he answered fiercely. If tuan does
not believe . . .
He went home that night to spend a week recovering from a
complexity of emotions.
As for Nyoman Kaler, he was remote and evasive when I went
to see him. He had done his best, he said. To please me. But
Sampih's thoughts were elsewhere. Neither in his mind nor his
body would the dance enter. It was vain to spend time on this
I did not agree. I had no intention of giving up, especially
when one day Sampih said, very gently, Am I not to dance any
But do you think you really want to?
Whatever tuan wishes. His answer was almost inaudible.
I resolved to find a teacher with more patience, someone
younger and less pedantic. Someone, moreover, who would come
to Sayan, where I would be able to watch the lessons from day
to day. But who? There were many teachers to choose from.
Chokorda Rahi, right here in Sayan, had indicated he would be
only too pleased to continue Sampih's training, but I had no
wish to bring down elaborate court-culture about our heads.
There was, moreover, too great a disparity in both age and caste.
The lessons would be dreary. It needed someone young and
lighthearted to draw this boy out, someone of his own class and
temperament. All at once I thought of Champlung, one of the
legong dancers of Bedulu. I had heard she had stopped dancing,
since she was now almost fourteen, and had begun to train new
dancers for the club. Already there was word of their excellence.
I thought that if I could persuade her to come to Sayan, she
would be the perfect teacher for Sampih.
But other preoccupations caused me to postpone plans for
Sampih for the time being. Matters more urgent at the house
now needed my attention.
IDA BAGUS CEDE EXPELS THE DEMONS
ONE suffocating afternoon, as I lay in bed numb and stupified
from sleep, the house suddenly began to creak and shudder, to
swim unaccountably before my eyes, slightly at first, and then
with violence. I was out of bed and on the veranda in a flash.
Outside the scene had become unreal and agitated. Palms waved,
the ground rippled; the outlines of everything were blurred with
movement. Almost immediately there rose a clamor up and
down the valley, the sound of voices shouting, of many people
beating on signal drums and gongs, on pots, bamboos, kerosene
tins anything to increase the din and frighten the demon that
was causing the earth to shake. The tremors ended; began again;
ceased as suddenly as they had commenced. The earthquake had
lasted perhaps a minute. A lifetime had passed. Soon the valley
was quiet once more, but long afterwards the cockatoos were
screaming from their perches, the monkeys still jumping on
In the graveyard the altar to the Sun God had been cracked
down the middle, we learned. Damage in the village had been
otherwise slight. A tree had fallen, and one more wall to the
palace of Chokorda Rahi had crumbled to the ground. But when
Rendah brought up the water to fill the bath tank he said the
earthquake was a bad omen. It had occurred in the wrong month
(there were favorable months for earthquakes, it seemed), one
already marked by drought and a plague of rats in the fields.
Already there had been in Tabanan a great ceremonial burning
of the rats. The land was 'Tiot," demons were abroad, and illness
would surely follow. Once more he urged me to complete the
walls that ran only part way around the house.
But tuan, perhaps, has no need for walls, he added in a small
and questioning voice. After paying this indirect tribute to the
mysterious power of resistance of a foreigner, he shouldered the
pole from which hung his water cans, and went down the path
once more to the spring.
Like the magic rectangle drawn on the ground by a sorcerer,
the walls surrounding a Baline&e household protected those
within from evil forces, forever lurking outside and working to
bring misfortune. The one vulnerable spot in the magic barrier
was the entrance, and here the gateway had been reinforced by
a strip of wall inside the courtyard, which blocked the view from
without and deflected the assault of demons.
So too the entire village must be protected against the outer
world. In the mountains the more primitive villages were actually
surrounded by walls. To the north and south, where the two
gates broke the magic circle, the entrances had been reinforced
by simple mazes, constructed for the special bewilderment of evil
spirits. Sliding gates, narrow lanes that turned back on them-
selves were part of the puzzle, so that the village was actually
laced in, isolated as a fortress.
But in Sayan, as in most villages built in later times, the walls
had become an invisible abstraction. Boundaries existed chiefly
in the imagination. That they did exist, however, was suddenly
clear at each return of nyepi, the yearly day of silence. Now the
village was suddenly aware of itself as a unity. In the evening,
after the priest had summoned the evil spirits to a feast at the
crossroads of the village, and then put them to flight with magic
formulas, the road was barricaded at either end with a pile of
branches. Visible walls now joined the invisible. No one might
come in nor go out; for twenty-four hours the village was sealed.
For a day people remained at home. Fires were extinguished;
lamps might not burn. On that night I would sit in darkness
without even a cigarette. The village was now sepi, empty and
silent. The demons, wishing to return, would surely think it had
been deserted and pass it by.
It was only too clear to all Qiat my land was exposed to every
kind of danger, since it not only was unwalled, but lay outside
the village circle. Worse still, it was situated between the grave-
yard and the ravine, in whose dark crevices dwelt an endless tribe
of sprites and monsters.
In the daytime the graveyard was not too intimidating. It
was overgrown with trees and shrubs, a wilderness, recalling an
earlier time when the dead were left unburied in the forest, to
be devoured by wild beasts. Even now the dead were buried
hastily enough, with a hilarity even, that seemed to conceal the
same aversion. A show of grief was forbidden; a weeping child
was sent out of the graveyard. From my house a funeral sounded
like the liveliest of picnics. Once the mirrors had been placed
in the dead eyes, the body lowered into a grave which was left
unclosed for three days, the funeral party broke up \\ith shouts.
Laughing, singing, yelling at the tops of their voices, youths and
men rushed down the hillside, followed by the women, to bathe
and forget in the river below.
But after nightfall the graveyard was transformed, a haunted
spot that no one would dream of entering. On moonlight nights
the solitary kepuh tree, sacred to Durga, goddess of death, glim-
mered high above the palms. Imps and demons gathered in its
branches; in the shadowplay this dreadful tree was seen to be filled
with evil birds, hands and legs with faces, while the branches
were festooned with entrails. Caldrons caught the dripping blood,
and the roots wound in and out of bones and skulls. Here the
pupils of the Widow met at midnight, to dance and feast on the
living blood of dead brought back to life . . .
The graveyard, moreover, was a natural meeting-place for
witches and sorcerers, for every village had its suspects, owners
of books of spells that enabled the reader to change himself into
a leyak a ball of fire, a giant rat, or even a riderless motorcycle
that traveled backwards. In this magic state sorcerers were indeed
dangerous; they could send a man out of his wits or bring him
to a lingering death.
No one was surprised, then, when all at once things began to
go wrong in the house. Misfortunes occurred, one after another,
and as they accumulated everyone began to have a worried,
hunted look. Rantun the cook slipped on the kitchen floor and
broke her arm. Pugig stepped on a thumbtack and got an in-
fected foot. The cat fell off the roof, actually fell, for no reason
at all, and was killed, while Kesyur and Sampih declared the
garage was haunted. Night after night they would wake, they
said, unaccountably rigid, jaws clenched, unable to make a sound.
They heard the bicycle bells of Durus and Pugig ring out in the
darkness, although there was no one else with them in the ga-
rage. Voices called their names from outside, but they opened
the doors to find no one. And late one night, as Kesyur walked
up the road alone to the garage, he saw, sitting silently among
the bamboos, a great bird, large as a horse.
This, however, was not all.
In the morning, as Pugig brought up the coffee, he would
point to drops of blood that ran in an unbroken line all around
the outside floor of the sleeping-house. A fight between two
tokes, the great lizards that now hid and croaked in the thatch, I
suggested; but Pugig did not agree, for he would wash the spots
away, only to find them again the following morning. One night
I awoke to hear the loud ticking of a clock almost in my ear. It
was rapid and metallic, like an alarm clock, and seemed to come
from outside the wall. As I reached for my flashlight it began to
travel quickly around the four walls of the room. I ran outside,
but there was no trace of anything at all.
Everyone agreed, as I related the experience in the morning,
that all this was the work of leyaks. Kesyur urged me to consult
a seer at once. He suggested the older brother of Chokorda Rahi,
whose spells and amulets were known to be unusually powerful.
But Rendah was wiser. He reminded me that although the house
had been blessed by the priest when I first moved in, I had,
however, never made offerings for the demons that inhabited the
land itself. Disasters would increase until I had done so. I must
make a mecharu, a purification ceremony, when the demons
would be called to a feast and then expelled from my land, and
he advised me to seek the help of the great priest of Bangkasa
across the valley, Ida Bagus Cede.
This was one of the ten great priests of Bali, and his holiness-
and magic power were known throughout the island. He was
able to summon the 16yaks and dispel the demons. He knew all
the entrances and exits to this world, knew the mysteries of the
microcosmos and the macrocosmos. He was, in addition, famed
as a dalang, but he only performed for the most solemn rites,
and the only story he ever performed was that of Chalonarang
the witch of how, long ago, she spread plague upon plague in
the land of Java, and was finally destroyed with a gesture of the
hand by the holy saint and recluse, Mpu Bharada. It was clear
that Ida Bagus Cede identified himself with this ascetic.
We already knew each other. He was a benign old man, often
slightly drunk by ten in the morning, dignified and austere and
frowning severely one moment, smiling with paternal warmth
and tenderness the next. He wore his long white hair tied up in
a knot on the crown of his head, and when I met him on the
road, chubby and crumpled, piled high on top of a slow-moving
pony and holding over his head a paper umbrella, I could not
help thinking of some Chinese portrait of a Taoist monk.
Once I passed him in a dogcart and stopped to ask if I could
not take him where he was going in the car. He got out, while
his attendant transferred his paraphernalia: a red-and-gold mitre
two feet high, his prayer beads, his bell, his bronze insignia, a
large wallet stuffed with betel, two hens, and several baskets that
might have contained anything at all.
Our progress as we drove along was constantly impeded by
obstacles, for each time we came to an overhead bridge or water
conduit he would call out dramatically,
Stop . . ! A priest such as I may not pass beneath where men
have walked or water flows! Kesyur would open the door, and
out he would get, staff in hand, to clamber up the bank and join
us on the other side.
As for an airplane, he scowled at the very thought. It was the
ultimate insult for men to fly above his head, dare to dishonor
the gods by crossing over their temples. He shook his head. But
now we had come to another bridge. Once more we stopped for
him to get out, and by the time he rejoined the car he had for-
gotten what he had been saying.
The morning I called to consult him about the purification of
my land he was not yet visible, for he was still at prayers. I knew
his morning program. So holy a man might not speak before he
had bathed, brushed his teeth, put on clean garments and recited
many prayers. Then only was he in a state fit to utter the sacred
words within him. He would come out of the house temple at
Iast 7 to sit cross-legged in his highest pavilion, ready to receive,
and his first request would be for arac. He also appreciated (I
had already discovered) brandy, especially the kind that had
three stars clearly outlined on the label.
I had not been waiting long before Ida Bagus Cede appeared.
I sat down before him, taking care to remain on a lower step, and
greeted him. He gave me one of his gentle smiles, pronounced
a word of welcome, blessed me theatrically and asked the object
of my visit.
I replied that I had come to seek his help. My land was full
of demons; I wished him to make a mecharu at my house, and
wanted to know what the offerings would be. He straightened
himself and drew in his breath importantly.
You need the great ritual, he began, the highest one, and it
will take many offerings, and a month to prepare. For this you
will slaughter one young bull, one goose, one goat, one dog
with a three-colored hide, one duck with similar markings, one
young male pig, one chicken with feathers growing the wrong
way, five hens of five different colors, and twenty-five ducks. You
will also need six hundred duck-eggs, six hundred bananas, and
five thousand Chinese cash. The offerings prepared in advance
will include two roast pigs, ten roast chickens, ten roast ducks,
five baskets of rice, flowers and cakes, and five skeins of thread
in the five colors.
He paused, to think what he had left out.
These were only the main items which I wrote down. When
at last he could go no further he paused, looking at me severely.
That is what is correct, he said.
I was so impressed with the solemnity of the moment that it
took all my courage to murmur, Father, I am not rich; is there
no other way?
Yes, he said. You need not slaughter the bull.
But where am I to find such a dog? And who will prepare the
Yours is a large house, he answered sternly. And your land has
always been dangerous land. He poured a little glass of arac and
drank it. He spread a betel leaf with lime, rolled it carefully, and
put it in his mouth.
I did not feel, however, that compromise was impossible. I
suddenly thought of a scene from the story of Chalonarang. After
the holy man has rid the land of the witch, the time comes to
make fitting celebration. King Erlangga seeks the saint. "The
king asked further concerning the cost of the ceremonies. 'My
lord, tell me. How great must the sum be that I should give?
Tell me the cost of the lowest, the middle and the highest cere-
monies/ Bharada answered; It matters not, the cost, if a man is
a good man, and a seeker of the Way. And if he is not, it also
matters not. The lowest ceremony requires a sum of 1,600 pieces
of silver, the middle 4,000, and the highest 8,000. There is also
the ceremony which is the highest of high, requiring 80,000.
Give, O king, what seems fitting and right/ The king replied, 1
will take the 8,000 ceremony/ "
Guided by the remembrance of this situation I begged Ida
Bagus Ged6 to reconsider the offerings. For there was also the
matter of musicians I must engage to play during the ceremony,
and also some dramatic performance at night, to bring the day
to a festive conclusion. He called to his grandson to bring a pen-
cil. A small boy now sat on the ground below us and began to
On no account, it seemed, could the dog be omitted, but
eggs, coconuts and bananas were reduced considerably. Every-
thing mentioned in fives remained, for these were for the gods
and demons of the four directions, and also Him of the center.
It was decided that the women of Ida Bagus Ged6 ? s household
should prepare the offerings and I would pay the cost
Sampih, who had come with me, had been sitting silently all
this while. But now he spoke up.
Father, I crave indulgence. But is there not to be a cockfight?
Of course! It was understood! How could a mecharu be effec-
tive without the sacrificial shedding of blood! He turned to the
difficult problem of determining an auspicious day. He asked for
his almanac and with a frown began to study it.
I thought of the mounting disasters at home, and begged that
the ceremony take place as soon as possible, before, perhaps, the
house caught fire (already the thatch had blazed one night from
a flaring lamp) or I was killed by one of the wild careening buses
that missed my car each day by an inch. But no; it must be on a
Saturday, a sabtu, when the moon was dark. In five weeks' time,
he said at last I rose, saying, Father, I now take leave.
His face grew serene. He gave me a smile of great kindliness,
and said, Go home in peace, my son.
At the house no one could talk of anything but the cockfight.
Pugig went home for two more birds. Kesyur and Durus brought
two more. On the kitchen veranda a line of cages now stood, a
restless cock in each. Every day mock fights were staged to exer-
cise the vicious-tempered birds. The whole village, it appeared,
looked forward to the event. Every boy, every man, said Rendah,
who owned a cock would surely be at the fight.
A mecharu is not complete without a performance of the tale
of the witch, Chalonarang, either danced and mimed, or given
as a shadowplay. I had decided on the latter, but only after long
pleading was I able to persuade Ida Bagus Cede to act as dalang.
It was too dangerous! So strong was his magic power that when,
in the play, the witch calls all 16yaks to her aid, many real leyaks
from the neighboring countryside had been known to come out
at the call of Ida Bagus, unable to resist his summons, and filling
the night with flickering lights. He could not answer for conse-
quences, and he had not performed since the time in Marga
when, the next morning, many people in the village had been
found dead. He did not want this to happen in Sayan, he said.
But at last, as I insisted, he reluctantly consented, saying, Let
a place then be prepared for me and my musicians by the grave-
yard, high up from the ground and facing east.
Early on the day of the mecharu, members of the household
of Ida Bagus Ged< began to arrive with the offerings. The lawn
in the middle of the garden was chosen as the best place for the
ceremony, and now the men proceeded to set up the shrines and
altars of bamboo. Soon the rectangle was divided like a compass.
A shrine stood facing each of the four directions; in the center
rose a fifth. To the northeast a high and tottering altar swayed
in the breeze, laden with offerings to the Sun God. To the
southwest stood the correspondingly low altar to the God of the
A rather grim banquet was now set out on the lawn for all
the demons of the five directions. A slain white hen, white rice
and white foods were spread to the north. A black hen and black-
stained foods lay to the south. Yellow offerings to the east, red
to the west, all four colors merged for the center. The little
puppy which had spent last night whimpering so sadly had been
disemboweled, split open, and now lay flat upon the earth below
the altar to the Sea God. At last the table was set. The assistants
rested. We waited for the arrival of Ida Bagus Gede.
The sun was nearly overhead when Sampih called out, Look!
There they are! He pointed across the valley.
A procession of tall white parasols and people dressed in bright
clothes shone through the distant palms and slowly descended
the hillside in single file, winding along the edges of the rice
terraces until it reached the bottom of the valley and was lost
from sight around the bend of the river.
At last they appeared over the edge of the lawn. Ida Bagus
Gede entered the veranda and looked about. His practiced eye
detected at once which chair was the highest. He made for one
with a tall peacock back, and although the space was small, he
managed to tuck his legs beneath him and sit there, cramped but
upright, and framed like a Bodhisattva in a niche. At his feet an
attendant immediately began to prepare a leaf of betel to refresh
I asked him if he would like tea, or perhaps a cool syrup.
He smiled at me affectionately.
Brandy, my son. With three stars ... If there is any, he
added considerately. He nodded with satisfaction at the label
when Durus brought the tray before him, and drank a small glasi
as though he were feeding his soul.
But now his wife, who had been carefully examining the
arrangement of the offerings, sent word to say a skein of yellov
thread had been forgotten. Someone must return and fetch it
(For without it the rite would not be complete; there would b(
a weak spot in the magic of the offerings.) While an uncom
plaining budak departed on a five-mile walk, Ida Bagus went in
side to change to his ceremonial garments. He would not go ir
by the front door, for he had noticed the balcony above.
My son, I may not enter by this door.
I know, father, I answered. Will you proceed to the door made
especially for you? I led him to a door which opened on the
lawn. He was immensely pleased.
When he appeared again he was an imposing figure. Folds oi
white cloth enveloped him from waist to knees. Around his bare
shoulders hung a string of prayer beads, and on his head rose the
tall scarlet mitre, egg-shaped and trimmed with gold, of the high
priest. He walked solemnly out into the garden and climbec
onto the special platform which had been raised for him, to si1
among the offerings and pyramids of flowers. Incense rose from
a salver before him, on which were arranged his bells and his
bowls of holy-water filled with blossoms. He folded his hands,
closed his eyes, and was soon lost in meditation.
Om, he intoned in a deep voice. Om, Om, Om!
He took his bell in his hand and began to pronounce the hoi)
mantras. He prayed to the five directions, to the Five Guardians
of the Universe, chanting on the five sacred tones. When at last
he had completed the divine cycle he paused for breath, before
turning his attention to the demons.
From the direction of the garage there now came a confused
murmur of excited voices. The cockfight was already under way,
In quiet bliss the ring of men watched round after round. Three
rounds were sufficient ritualistic bloodshed, but the fights, I
knew, would go on till sundown, I loyally placed two guilders
on Kesyur's cock, but lost them to Chokorda Rahi, for within
thirty seconds it was dripping blood, sliced open by a lightning
slash from its opponent. In vain Kesyur tried to revive it. He
blew in its ear, stood it on its feet and pushed it forward. But
the other bird rushed to meet it. There was a second flash of the
steel spur, a flurry of feathers, and Kesyur's cock lay dead. An-
other round began; the morning passed.
The missing thread arrived, and Ida Bagus Cede could now
proceed. As he uttered each magic verse his hands turned, folded
and opened in hieratic gestures. They wove invisible geometric
designs, paused now and then in some symbolic position, hold-
ing one hypnotized like the silent communications of a mute.
From time to time a single star-shaped blossom shot into the air,
expelled from the tips of his fingers. His voice grew strained
with exhortation. Louder and fuller it rose, above his bell, above
the sound of the gamelan, filling the universe. At last he stopped.
In the silence which followed one felt something of great im-
portance had taken place, that evil must surely be allayed, dis-
pelled once and for all.
He returned to his chair on the veranda, tucking his feet up
under him once more. He looked very old and tired as he took
off his mitre and handed it to an attendant. The sari, the essence
of the offerings, consisted of a few dozen strings of cash, piled
on a plate, and Durus now thoughtlessly brought them in and
set them on a table. Ida Bagus waved them away, offended by
their sight. He brightened, however, as Sampih knelt before him
with a small glass of brandy. Soon he was smiling once more
and commenting on the ceremony, above all on my astuteness
in having sought his aid. With his magic power the ritual took
on the maximum efficacy and I was now safe.
He sat there sipping his brandy. He was not through talking
however. He must explain still further the respect due a great
priest. He began to tell of how the famous holy Sage of Java,
Mpu Bharada, once came across the water on a breadfruit leaf
to Bali, to visit and learn from the greatest Sage of all, Mpu
Kuturan. At last the time came for him to leave. He departed
from the cloister high in the mountains and returned to the sea.
But when he stepped onto the breadfruit leaf it sank. How could
this be? What force greater than his was at work? All at once he
remembered that he had neglected to take formal leave of the
Sage of Bali. He turned round and journeyed back to the cloister
to beg the holy one's pardon, asking to be allowed to leave. The
Sage bowed (here Ida Bagus looked very gracious) . Proceed upon
your way, little brother. Once more the Sage came to the shore.
This time the leaf did not sink. It bore him safely back across
the sea to Java.
In spite of his holiness he was wrong, said Ida Bagus, looking
stern. He was younger; he had not reached perfection; he still
owed great respect . . .
He rose to leave, to rest before returning that night for the
shadowplay. This would demand a fresh display of force and he
was at present exhausted. He went home to be recharged, re-
animated with sleep, magic formulas and arac. Following him
down the hillside, the procession bore home the roasted meats
left over from the offerings.
That night at dinner, Pugig uncovered the serving-dish with a
flourish. A rich smell of wine and herbs swept into the air.
The fighting-cock of Kesyur, he announced.
It was really quite excellent.
There is no meat more fortifying, said Durus as he brought
the cigarettes. Unless, he added thoughtfully, anteater.
But why anteater?
He is the strongest of them all. Not even a tiger can kill him.
He rolls himself into a ball you can't open. His scales are like
iron . . .
He set the bottle of brandy on the table.
Ida Bagus Ged6 seems able to drink much arac, I said.
He is old; he needs it to keep his strength, said Durus.
I thought priests might not drink strong drinks.
Ida Bagus is very holy. He may do as he pleases . . .
When Ida Bagus Cede returned that night he was already in
a state of exaltation. He would not speak. His mind was fixed on
the play he was to perform. He rested for a moment, and then
walked up the road towards the graveyard, followed by his musi-
cians and men bearing the heavy box of puppets. Soon the sound
of shadowplay music filled the night; but now drums and gongs
had been added to the little orchestra for this dark tale of witch-
craft, and the music sounded strange and ominous.
The audience was tense. Rarely was there the chance to see
this great priest perform. The site chosen for the play, the edge
of the graveyard, created an additional atmosphere of mystery,
producing a mood of subdued excitement. Anything might hap
pen. The road was crowded; children sat along the high base of
the altar to the Sun God, waiting.
From the first moment that the voice of Ida Bagus was heard
behind the screen, chanting the opening words of invocation, all
knew he had fallen in trance. His voice was like some powerful
call from the underworld. I watched him while he took the
puppets as though in a dream from the hands of his assistants,
shoved them against the screen and somberly declaimed their
lines. Back and forth he swayed beneath the lamp, inspired, pos-
sessed. A battle of good and evil was taking place within; he was
both sorceress and holy man, and the conflict on the screen was
mirrored in his distorted, tortured face. Even the clowns were
frightening. The audience could not understand the strange hu-
mor of Ida Bagus, his Satanic obscenity, and watched with grow-
Lyak! Lyak! he shrieked, as on the scene the sorceress sum-
moned her pupils to her side. Lyaks! Come out! He dimmed
the lamp; the screen turned murky. He drew the puppet back
from the screen so that the shadow suddenly magnified and filled
the stage. The gongs beat softly; the drums throbbed.
What is that out there, in the fields? a voice cried sharply from
the crowd. In the distance a pale light was seen to waver un-
steadily. The audience began to stir. But soon it was recognized
as a flashlight.
Lyak! Lsyak screamed Ida Bagus. His voice had grown hoarse
and utterly inhuman. Veins stood out in his forehead and neck.
His face was beaded with sweat.
But no flames came out of the night in answer to his call. He
went on with the play. At last the final scene was reached. The
air was rent with furious cries as Chalonarang sought to over-
power the holy man with incantations. Calmly he stood there,
unharmed. He raised his arm and pronounced the sacred words
that destroyed her. The play was over; for the second time that
day evil had been averted. The audience rose and drifted into
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Ida Bagus Cede returned to con-
sciousness. But his mind remained far away, and he did not seem
to hear me when I spoke. He covered the puppets with a white
cloth and pronounced a final prayer. He put the lid on the box
and with an effort rose to his feet. In silence, followed by his
attendants, he set out for home.
No 16yak dared appear! said Sampih as we walked back to the
house. They were probably too afraid ... Of tuan, he added,
half to himself.
But in the morning Rendah came with the news that the
child of Kejir had died in the night. A ball of blue fire had been
seen glowing dimly through the trees back of the house. It had
floated off in the direction of the graveyard and disappeared.
THE STORY OF SAMPIH CONTINUED
THE mood of anxiety which had hung like a raincloud over the
household had now completely evaporated. There were no more
accidents, no more mysterious calls or visitations in the night.
All felt protected and secure after the departure of Ida Bagus,
and we were able to settle down once more to a life of untrou-
One afternoon I drove to Bedulu, to stop at the marketplace
and ask the way to the house of Champlung. A small boy guided
me down the narrow lane that ran between mud walls, softly
shaded by the cool green of bamboos and banana plants. Cham-
plung's door was the last, where the road came to an end at the
edge of the fields. From over the walls came the rhythmic thud
of rice poles.
In the courtyard the sunlight fell through the trees on two
women threshing. Beside them, Champlung stood with a win-
nowing tray, and as she tossed the grain in the air the chaff
floated down around her bare shoulders in a luminous shower
The tuan! she exclaimed. Tuan Sayan is here! All work came
abruptly to a stop; I must be made welcome.
It was some time before I made the suggestion which I knew
would astonish everyone, that she come to Sayan a few days each
week to give lessons to Sampih. She burst out laughing. She?
Teach a boy? She would have no idea how to begin.
But we were no strangers, and I was prepared to spend the
afternoon in wheedling and insidiously undermining the resist-
ance of her parents. We talked till sundown.
In the end I had my way, as I expected, though only after it
was decided that for a small sum in addition to the one I pro-
posed her father should come with her to cEaperone her. For
Sayan was too far for her to return home each evening. She
would often sleep there, and she had a snub-nosed prettiness, a
husky voice and bright gaiety that was, it seemed, already too
attractive. Her father watched her like a hawk; it would be un-
fortunate if some accident occurred which might definitely mar
her reputation and lower her marriage-value.
She must, in addition, bring with her two musicians; a drum-
mer (without which no dancer could move, no gesture have any
form or meaning), and a g'nd6r player to outline the melody of
It was growing dark. We had talked ourselves out, and I got
up to leave.
In two weeks, then, I said.
Yes, it was understood.
But I could not depart without having to take with me a
basket of mangoes and little rice-cakes. She carried them down
the road to the car, where we said good-by.
She will stay in Sayan? said Kesyur, as we drove along.
Yes . . . Why?
Oh, nothing ... I simply asked. He seemed preoccupied and
thoughtful the rest of the way home.
She arrived early one morning in Sayan with her musicians.
For a moment she sat on the edge of the veranda, demure and
correct, inhaling her cigarette and slowly blowing out the smoke,
replying all the while in the most distant of monosyllables. But
this reserve was too much. She suddenly broke down, and soon
she was giggling with Sampih like a child of ten. As for her father,
he simply sat there, on the lower step of the veranda, bowing
in silence when Pugig brought him a cup of coffee.
Champlung looked at Sampih as he went through the bapang
dance with a severe and critical air that I could not help finding
amusing. But soon she began to smile, and then to giggle, hold-
ing her hand politely before her mouth.
Den Pasar style! she exclaimed at last. Nothing apparently
could be more absurd. She got up to show how it should be done.
It was two years since I had last seen her dance, and I was
amazed at the change. I remembered her for her tense, animated
performance, her rapid movements, timed always, it seemed, a
fraction ahead of the beat. Now, suddenly grown-up, newly femi-
nine, she had taken on a serenity and restraint, a new grace,
which gave her dancing an altogether different quality. It was
charming and completely unexciting. Gone was the sexless
beauty, the abstract sensuousness; gone the lightning speed, the
miniature-like perfection. Now each movement seemed too am-
ple; the delicate frame of the dance was broken.
She stopped. Like that, she said. "Breaks," "flowers," "pro-
gression" all were different. Sampih must start once more from
If Champlung no longer danced with the light fleetness of
childhood, she was still able to suggest it in her gestures. Her
style had sweep, imagination, a fluidity that made Nyoman's
teaching seem dry and superficial. It was charming indeed to see
the way she passed her knowledge on to Sampih. She was no
analyst, indeed had no experience other than to train the new
dancers in her village. But she put all her youthful energy into
these lessons, difficult, moreover, for her to give, for she had a
willful and far from supple boy to deal with. She solved each
problem in her own way.
Sampih adored her. Their bright peasant natures understood
each other. Suddenly thinking he had rehearsed long enough,
Sampih would begin to complain, but she refused all sympathy.
Beh! I'm tired! My neck hurts! Sampih's voice had become
small and dismal. But she merely laughed.
Three steps northeast! Turn! Bend backwards! Further! Keep
the fan waving . . .
One day Nyoman Kaler arrived unexpectedly during a lesson.
He surveyed the scene with detachment. He watched Cham-
plung as she moved as though she were a curious insect.
Bedulu style! he remarked acidly after a while. He got up to
go. He had just dropped in, he said, on his way to the mountains
to look for bamboo for a flute. His glance rested once more on
Sampih. He turned away.
Rindy has made much progress, he remarked. He is already
very much in demand. He is to dance each week for the tourists
at the hotel.
I recognized this as intended to wound, in return for my dis-
loyalty. I felt a wish to sooth him. Could I not drive him to
where he was going? No, he had his bicycle. But I insisted it
could be carried behind. As we drove along, sitting side by side,
he grew more and more subdued and dispirited. We reached the
village at the end of the road in silence. It was clear he had no
objective whatever, but he got out, saying good-by, mounted his
bicycle and rode up the narrow path, disappearing in the moun-
tain drizzle. I did not see him again for several months.
Mad6 Lebah, Champlung's drummer, had a lightness of touch,
a swiftness and delicate fire in his playing that was breath-taking.
I soon discovered he was a remarkable musician; he not only
played the g'nder with unusual grace, but he was one of the
leading gangsa players of the famous gamelan of Pliatan, a few
miles away. He was famed most of all, said old Rendah, for his
drumming in the arja play.
He was a high-strung, rather fragile youth, perhaps twenty,
filled with some mysterious nervous energy, for even when he
was not rehearsing, his long slender fingers were forever drum-
ming lightly against some vibrant surface, and when he laughed
his voice was high and excited. He had the most agreeable nature
in the world. In a short time we were fast friends, and when
Sampih's lesson was through for the day he would patiently play
through some legong melody for me to write down, or else show
me the different styles of "flower parts," the Bulel6ng way, the
ways of Den Pasar and Pliatan.
He knew a vast amount of music, and soon I began to wonder
how I had gotten on without him. He had not the cultural back-
ground of Nyoman Kal6r, but there was a clarity and precision
about his information which delighted me, for it was before all
practical, based on experience, very much up-to-date and not
blurred by theory. He knew the island very well, where the best
gamelans were, in what villages the best gongs were made, and
where to find the best tuner. He also had his own ideas about
how my garden should look, and was constantly surprising me
by filling in some corner with jasmine, a gardenia bush, or a row
of flamingo-colored lilies. He would spend a day on his bicycle,
off in the mountains, to return with some great fern or clump
of orchids that had opened that day. He was also an expert in
the art of spicing and roasting a pig.
But I valued him most of all, perhaps, for the easy way he had
in making friends in a strange village. His gentle assurance made
it possible for him to give a simple and disarming explanation
for my unlooked-for appearance and my strange curiosity in
gamelans. This Kesyur could not do. He either introduced me
with the air of a high official preceding a Chokorda, or else he
retired into himself and refused to speak at all. One day, after
I had quarreled with Kesyur about this and he had gone home
for a couple of days to recover, Lebah unexpectedly offered to
drive the car. He drove well, and I could not keep from asking,
then and there, if he would not care to work for me all the time
drive the car, be my guide, instructor and friend. He smiled.
I said that Kesyur was tired of driving me about. He was not
happy so far from Den Pasar. He agreed then, and a few days
later he had taken Kesyur's place.
Kesyur, I said the morning he left, as a chauffeur you are im-
possible. I much prefer you as a friend.
He admitted this with a smile. We parted on the best of
terms, each promising to visit the other's house next galungan
With Lebah part of the household, I now settled down to
several months of uninterrupted work. I had built a hut for
rehearsal under the trees just inside the gate, and people from
the village now began to wander in and out, to sit and gaze
contemplatively as Champlung gave Sampih his lessons. At the
gateway a few women set up their tables of cigarettes and little
bowls of sweetmeats, and the place began to have an atmosphere
of quiet sociability. Lessons took place each morning, and for
several hours the air was filled with the sound of drumming and
the intermittent chime of the g'nd6r.
In the afternoon Lebah would sit down near the piano, to
play phrase by phrase some g'nd6r melody while I wrote. Or he
would pick up a drum to show me the rhythm in a certain part of
the music. Seriously, leisurely, we worked together till sundown.
At last we would decide to stop. We would walk down the hill-
side to bathe in the spring halfway down, or else in the pool far
below, where through the ferns the water fell from overhead.
In order to give some objective to Sampih's lessons with
Champlung it was necessary to "try out" the dances from time
to time. Chokorda Rahi offered his own gamelan, and once in
a while Sampih would dance in the square before the palace.
But there was always a conflict in these performances, for Cho-
korda Rahi dearly loved to play the drum, and Sampih insisted
he could not follow the Chokorda's beat. It was too slow, too
old-fashioned, he said loftily, and he refused to dance without
When Sampih first appeared, his solo dance aroused much
admiration, but when the time came for partners no one stepped
forth from the crowd. He was too small; they were used to a
dancer almost full-grown, and a girl, moreover. He circled dis-
consolately around the lamp that flared in the darkness, waving
his fan to no avail. At last with an extravagant gesture, Pugig
stepped out, raised his long arms and began to dance.
He was six feet tall, and Sampih came only to his waist. A
crane with a ricebird! Durus called out. Pugig gave him a look of
cold fury. But then old Rendah stepped out nimbly and Pugig
retired. Rendah's dance was agile and full of humor, at times
sardonically obscene. All at once Sampih came to life and ac-
cepted the challenge. He had an instinct for comedy, and the
crowd roared at his glance of disdain and the deftness with which
he evaded Rendah's sly advances, the dexterity with which he
slipped his fan before his face when Rendah's had drawn too
Encouraged by this, two boys shyly ventured forth, one after
the other. Soon it was the turn of Chokorda Rahi himself. He
danced sedately, elegantly, as befitted a highborn prince. But
after him no one else dared. The performance now came to an
When may I begin to study kebyar? Sampih kept repeating
with growing insistence. This was forever in his mind. This I
had promised. For this he had worked. He had learned a great
deal from Champlung, It was now a pleasure to see him dance.
Lebah, Durus, Chokorda Rahi, Rendah all were delighted. But
it was clear his heart was not in it. Suddenly, overnight, the in-
terest of both dancer and teacher seemed to die. Champlung
could give no more; Sampih could absorb no more. It was time
to bring the lessons to an end.
It was also high time I began to think of the next step, the
kebyar lessons I had so rashly promised. Where to find a game-
Ian? How to found a club in Sayan? It was Lebah who had an
inspiration. His own kebyar club in Pliatan, three miles away!
They had no dancer, and for some time had been talking of
The Pliatan gamelan was one of the most famous on the
island. It had been to Java; had gone to Paris for the 1931 Expo-
sition. I had always found their playing rather impersonal. It had
a cold brilliance that was spectacular but not moving. But their
technic was perfection, and they played the latest kebyar pieces,
learned directly from the foremost composers of North Bali.
What was the powerful spell of this new music, the meaning
even of its name, kebyar? No one could give a precise transla-
tion. Kebyar was the crash of the cymbals, said Lebah. An ex-
plosion, said Nyoman. As for Chokorda Rahi, he said it was like
the sudden bursting open of a flower. It was release, escape from
the calyx of the past. It was, before all, a style, the new style,
all flame and radiance, tense and syncopated to a degree I had
But form suffered. Gone was the solidity of structure of the
ceremonial music, the delicious melody and balanced meter of
the 16gong. Instead a new composition was a medley of frag-
mentary themes and patterns from cremation-music, mask dance
or shadowplay. Episodes rarely reached completion, for they
were continually broken off in the middle, to proceed to another
tune, as though the players could not wait to begin something
new. Forever changing, brilliant and somber by turn, the moody
music seemed to express a new spiritual restlessness, an impa-
tience and lack of direction, for it was unpredictable as the inter-
mittent play of sunlight from a clouded sky.
As for the dance, it was as capricious as the music. The face
was no longer a mask, as in the older dances, but had become
mobile, human, sensitive to the slightest change in the music.
Yet at the same time the motions of the dancer were more
limited, for the dancer now sat, reverting to the ancient position
of the ritualistic seated choruses. The dance had been created,
it seemed, by the famous Mario of Tabanan, who now no longer
danced. Tabanan was in close contact with the villages of North
Bali, the source of the new music. Had Mario, I wondered, been
inspired, not only by this music, but by the elegant and flam-
boyant style in the north of playing the trompong, a row of little
gongs on which a soloist performed, touching the knobs of the
gongs before him with long thin sticks in wide and sweeping
gestures? The performance itself was almost a dance, and when
Mario pretended to play trompong in one of his earliest and
most beautiful dances his gestures were identical.
Although as yet there were perhaps no more than a dozen
performers of this newest dance on die island, the music itself
had already taken the villages by storm. Clubs formed, prac-
ticed furiously for a year, lost interest and broke up. Others con-
tinued for a longer time, one year burning with enthusiasm, the
next year bored and indifferent. The psychic state of the club
was as unpredictable as the music itself.
But the gamelan of Pliatan was firmly established and the
musicians took themselves very seriously, although the club ex-
isted purely for pleasure. When they went to Paris they took
with them their tegong dancers. Now, their dancers over-age,
they were in a state of suspended activity, undecided what to
Thus it happened they were willing to consider my proposal
of Sampih. They saw him dance; all agreed with Lebah that he
was indeed a find. His smile had charm, his eyes threw light;
they admired his energy and synchronization. It was decided to
begin his training at once. But first he must become a member
of the club.
Here a difficulty acrose. For Sampih came from a village sev-
eral miles away. Could he be counted on to attend rehearsals
which, at first, would take place every evening? The situation
was without precedent. It was only after Sampih promised
solemnly to "follow" the club in all activities that they agreed
to accept him as a member. It was now the moment to discuss
The club was wealthy. Part of the money made in Paris had
been divided, part had been invested in coconut plantations.
At present the books showed each member to be worth about
a hundred guilders. In order to enter the club, Sampih too must
contribute this amount. This would entitle him to share in the
profits from coconuts, divided each galungan season. He also
became part owner of the handsome instruments of the game-
Ian. He could never ask for this money back, but should the club
break up, all assets were to be divided equally. There was, more-
over, a fine of a quarter of a guilder for absence from rehearsal.
One evening I payed the entrance-money, and Sampih's name
was written into the books, before witnesses. The club cele-
brated by giving a little feast, during which it was announced
that they had decided to make me an honorary member. I was
begged to come often to rehearsals. I had only to ask, and the
club would come to play at my house in Sayan.
Gusti Raka, who agreed, although he had never taught, to
give Sampih lessons, was Mario's foremost pupil. He was a viva-
cious youth of eighteen, wealthy, highborn, spoiled, and it was
a problem to get him to come from Tabanan, twenty miles away,
to spend even three days in succession in Pliatan. But he was a
superb dancer, and he was attracted to Sampih from the very
Why, he can already dance! He has been well trained! Gusti
Raka exclaimed on the first day. He will learn quickly.
The past six months were justified, they had been worth the
effort, I thought, as I watched these lessons. Champlung's class-
ical style gave both depth and elegance to Gusti Raka's more
glittering gestures. The club was already delighted.
Sampih seemed to learn overnight. Gusti Raka's first concern
was with the gestures, the rapid, trembling movement of the
hands which were never still, and as I watched I could see how
tightly interwoven were the "flowers" of both dance and music,
shattering simultaneously the melody and movement, so that
the phrases had a glittering tension that was never allowed to
Sampih threw himself into these lessons with feverish inten-
sity. After a lesson he would be completely exhausted, nervously
and physically, for neither teacher nor club spared him in their
enthusiasm, and they would rehearse for hours. Most tiring of
all was the curious hopping glide on crossed feet, and one ankle,
dragged as a sort of rudder, was soon calloused and inflamed.
But he only complained when he was forced to stop for several
days to recover.
The Pliatan gamelan was to play at the great feast in Gianyar
when the Regent and a number of leading families would cre-
mate their dead. There would be dazzling performances of all
kinds for days, attended by enormous crowds, and the club had
decided that on this occasion Sampih should make his first
public appearance. This was to be a memorable event. The
gamelan was tuned and covered with a new coat of gold. The
most lavish costume was ordered for Sampih. The rehearsals
grew tense and irritable.
One of the great gongs of the gamelan had been cracked for
a long time, and the club had ordered a new one from Java, for
the smiths of Bali had never known the secret of casting these
enormous gongs. It arrived shortly before the day when the club
was to play in Gianyar, but before it could be used it must, of
course, be blessed. Early in the afternoon, before the club set
out for Gianyar, the men carried offerings to the little temple
of Panji that stood on a hill a mile away. There we sat watching,
while both gong and Sampih were cleansed with holy-water. We
returned to Pliatan where a bus was waiting, for this elegant club
would not be seen carrying their instruments. One by one, clad
in new silk shirts and brightest of sarongs and headcloths, they
got into the bus that was already piled with gongs, g'nders and
drums. There was a cough and an explosion from the motor, a
moment of anxiety and the bus started with a jolt. I followed
behind in the car with Sampih and Lebah,
The debut was an unmistakable triumph. Sampih was in one
of his exalted moods. He could hardly wait to begin. He danced
as though the wind were blowing through him, and his assur-
ance and theatrical sense enchanted the watchers, from the first
proud moment, when he sprang into life with a crash of gongs
and cymbals, to the final almost self-effacing pose.
Where did you find him? A handsome dancer! A smile like
It was the Regent himself. I was rather astonished, for he
rarely looked on at a performance. He had already heard, he
said, of my "presenting" a dancer to the Pliatan club. He had
wished to see for himself.
In two years' time, I said modestly. He has only begun . . .
A farmer's boy, I believe, said the Anak Agung.
He will be very spoiled, said the Regent He stood looking a
moment longer, then picked up the train to his sarong and
walked back towards the palace.
The next week Sampih danced at the feasts in the great
temple at Pliatan, the following week in Blahbatu. In a month's
time his name was known in Den Pasar and Karangasem. The
club was in raptures.
Sampih's success was due in part to his youthfulness, his un-
deniable charm, and above all his vitality and fine sense of tim-
ing that made you overlook any momentary flaw of gesture.
This rhapsodic dance, so moody and so flashing, so full of bright
display, suited his temperament to perfection. He clearly loved
to dance, loved the excitement of a performance in which he
was so focal a point. Yet as I watched, his dancing seemed to
have the pathos of something doomed to a short life. For a
few years he would delight audiences with his precocious bril-
liance, but this violent dance offered little to build on. Already
Gusti Raka at eighteen was bored by it. Would Sampih, I won-
dered continue to even that age?
For the moment he was secure in his alliance with the club
of Pliatan. But a club which exists for the sake of pleasure only
may dissolve in the night. I could see no stability in the future,
and I was only able to take comfort in the thought that at pres-
ent the mood of the Pliatan club was one of unity, and that the
members showed no signs of breaking up.
I was away in Java for two months, to visit friends and attend
a series of plays given by the court actors in the palace of the
Sultan of Jokjakarta. The performances were unforgettable for
their exquisite finish, the beauty and incredible refinement of
the dancers, the strange, mystic atmosphere created by their
languor of movement and the soft velvet tone of the gamelan.
I returned to Bali half under the spell of this dreamlike experi-
ence, yet eager for the violence, the shock, the exuberance of the
performances that took place each nigEt, not in palaces, but
underneath the trees, surrounded by an audience of villagers.
Sampih's dancing had improved amazingly. It had a new bril-
liance, a sureness and authority that it had never had before.
There had been many performances, said Lebah. The crowds
were huge wherever they appeared.
Sampih seemed suddenly much older. At first he was shy and
rather distant when he returned to Sayan, but in a few days he
was as at home in the house as ever. Yet there was a new tone in
his voice, a new expression in his eyes. He had suddenly become
aware of his charm. He tried it on Rantun the cook when she
scolded, on Nyoman Kaler when he came one day to the house,
on the Anak Agung of Saba, on me.
He must now wear sandals, and have a coat made by the same
tailor as Lebah. He began to let one fingernail grow long. He
longed for a gold tooth. It was clear he had become a star.
LAPSE OF TIME
MEANWHILE the calendar of feast-days slowly unrolled. One
after the other the six temples held their anniversaries, disrupt-
ing private life and throwing the village into a state of agreeable
Long before a feast tie elders met to determine the number
of offerings, the scale of expenditures. They sat in a circle at the
crossroads, answering in turn as their name was read out by the
This word had a second and not unrelated meaning, for it
also meant pillar of a building, an upright post that supported
the roof. When a silence fell after a name the klian scratched a
marginal note with his knife in his palm-leaf book: fined ten
kepengs for absence.
They now discussed the coming feast How many pigs should
they slaughter? How many chickens and ducks? What should
they have in the way of entertainment? The priest consulted his
book of directions. Each household would give a measure of
rice, ten eggs, six coconuts . . .
When at last the meeting broke up, each man knew down to
the last detail his contribution, from the number of sticks of
firewood to the exact amount of coconut-oil and salt
A day or so before a feast Rendah would politely beg to be
excused from work, for at home there was now repot, much
business to attend to. The tone of his voice implied that he did
not know how he could possibly get through with it. But if I
went to see him at this time I was pretty sure to find him ac-
tually doing nothing at all, and I could find little sign of any-
thing unusual other than his wives and sisters preparing in all
tranquillity the offerings of cakes and woven palm leaf. Yet if I
asked Rendah to return with me to the house for even the brief-
est moment, he would insist it was quite impossible. So much
repot! Such urgency! He sighed, paralyzed at the thought.
At home it was Rantun, the cook, who prepared the little
offerings which must be made every few days for our welfare.
She was very young and very pretty, and Pugig had soon fallen
quite in love with her, and they now slept together in the little
house among the trees by the kitchen that had been built for
Pugig. She never forgot to make the offerings for demons every
few days, setting them on the ground before the gates at sun-
down. Every fifteen days she burnt incense in the house temple
and placed tiny fans of flowers and betel for the gods in all the
houses on the beds, beside the bath, on the piano, the. car, and
beside her braziers in the kitchen. Each day she placed a little
portion of the food she cooked on a shelf above her pots and
pans for Batara Uma, and dropped blossoms and betel leaves
beside the little pool in the rocks down near the river (from
which we got our drinking-water) for the spirit of the spring.
Once every five weeks Daria the priest came to the house to
bless my different possessions. On the day of the coconut-palms
he placed an offering at the foot of the largest tree, and went
about sprinkling the trees with holy-water. On the day for bless-
ing the pigs and domestic animals he indulgently sprinkled water
on my pets as well, the monkeys, the parrots, and even Ch&ig-
cheng the dog. There was the day for cattle that plowed the
fields; the day for weapons, but I had none; for books, and then
the day for blessing the puppets, masks and musical instruments.
When these six sacred days had come and gone, the cycle was
complete; it was now time to begin once more.
It was all very charming and peaceful, giving the house an in-
definable feeling of protection and security. When, on the
morning after the day of silence and fireless hearths, Pugig
lighted the fire again in the kitchen, it seemed to bum with a
new warmth. Voices rose brightly; people set about work with
animation. A fresh start had been made once more.
One morning, as I returned after a week spent in the wilds
along the western tip of the island, I found lying on the table a
long envelope. Inside, a typewritten mimeographed announce-
ment informed me that the Regent of Gianyar was to receive a
decoration from the Queen of Holland, and invited me to the
palace to attend the ceremony when he would receive the
Golden Star. A, program was outlined. At eleven-thirty the an-
cient guard of warriors, bearing spears, would form a line along
the road at the entrance to the town. In front of the palace
would assemble the Padvinders the boy scouts. At twelve the
Gamelan of Carnal Love and the Gamelan of the Great Gongs
would begin to sound. The Star would be affixed by the Resi-
dent. We would lunch, and afterwards witness a performance of
the ancient gambuh play, performed by the actors from the
court of Tabanan. I was requested not to come in shorts. With
Honor, the Anak Agung Ngurah Agung, Regent of the District
I wondered how he had wangled the decoration. I knew the
utter pleasure he would take in this ceremony, a pleasure inten-
sified by the thought that he had advanced a step ahead of the
other regents. It would be hard for them to refuse with face his
invitation, and their compliments would add the final touch of
joy to the event, I was delighted to go, for I could hear once
more his lovely-sounding Gamelan of the Love God.
It was a bright warm day as we drove into Gianyar. Several
hundred small barefooted Padvinders stood in line before the
palace walls, clutching paper flags. As each car passed and en-
tered the palace gates the flags were momentarily agitated, as
though stirred by a gust of wind, to the accompaniment of
vague cheering. All at once the Padvinders began to sing in de-
spondent unison, a song composed for the occasion by the In-
donesian schoolmaster. To the tune of God Save the King rose
the words, regardless of stress or quantity,
Slamat trima bintang
Slamat trima bintang
Happily receive star
A few guests had already arrived and were seated in the great
pavilion on chairs arranged in a row. Conversation was bored
and languid, and I finally gave up trying to talk to the wife of
the Controlleur from Tabanan. I suppose we must talk English,
she said. Americans never speak another language.
Mais si fa vous plaira de parlez frangais . . .
But this only seemed to irritate her the more.
I sat counting the clocks on the wall, that hung on either side
of the door leading to the inner palace. Suddenly, in an outburst
of chimes, a little symphony began as the clocks in turn struck
twelve. At that moment the door opened and the Regent
He was arrayed in all his glory. He bowed stiffly; his eyes nar-
rowed and there was the faintest shadow of pleasure in the cor-
ner of his lips as he noted the presence, one by one, of the other
There was another pause, a stir, and the Resident arrived, to
sit down beside the Regent and converse. We waited. Music
began. In this formal atmosphere I listened with keener pleasure
than usual to the complex blend of dissonance as the two game-
lans rang out at the same time. The Resident rose, pronounced
a few brief phrases and pinned the decoration on the Regent's
dilated breast. Boys poured champagne, which rose warm and
sweet in the glasses as we drank a toast to Her Majesty. Above
the roar of gongs and drums there soared the treble voices of
the Padvinders outside,
Happily receive star
They paused. There was the sound of firecrackers. They began
again, to intone the national anthem.
Lunch was long and the conversation far from animated, pos-
sibly because the champagne was now followed by tepid beer,
and although the rijstafel was certainly drab for so auspicious an
occasion, we all as usual ate far too much.
As soon after lunch as it was politely possible, the guests be-
gan to leave. Only two or three of the regents remained, together
with Walter, whom I had not seen in a month, and Goris, the
government archaeologist from Buleleng, whom I found ex-
tremely sympathetic. From behind the thickest of glasses, mild
blue eyes peered out myopically, but his devotion for the past
was intense, and his conversation was delicately shaded with
malice. We went outside together, to spend a peaceful after-
noon watching the gambuh actors from Tabanan.
To the soft and hollow sound of great bamboo flutes, the
actors slowly made their entrance, one after another. They
moved with almost feminine grace, and their gestures and
postures unfolded one out of the other in weary elegance. The
play was an episode from the ancient legend of prince Panji, but
no one around me could say exactly which part, for the actors
spoke in Kawi, and their lines were not "translated.
The play had just begun. Some twenty characters, knights,
ministers and buffoons, would have to appear before the plot,
enfolded in this sequence like the seed within a flower, would
finally come to life. Time stood still. The audience, composed
of older people, sat watching in utter tranquillity, savoring the
mood, the atmosphere evoked by the music and gesture, by the
mere sound of legendary names, and caring very little when the
moment for actual drama would arrive. Above the faint ring of
tiny cymbals, the almost inaudible drums, the voices of the
actors slowly rose to a high falsetto and dropped, in a declama-
tion so strangely artificial, so altogether unreal that, what with
the faint music, the gentle motion of actors no longer young,
the faded costumes, the whole performance had the quality of
an ancient tapestry, seemed to be something that was taking
place in a dream.
When, in the late afternoon, I got up to leave, I passed a
number of actors near the gates. They were still waiting for their
On the way home we passed through Blahbatu. The sound of
lively kebyar music grew suddenly loud as we approached a
lighted pavilion, died once more in the distance. It was the club
of Blahbatu rehearsing.
Waves of the Ocean! exclaimed Lebah. Everyone played it in
1931. I should think they would be ashamed!
For it was now the middle of 1934.
Not long after this I received another invitation. A boy saun-
tered in from Ubud one morning with a note in pencil from
Chokorda Ngurah, the brother of Chokorda Rahi. I was asked
to a feast the following week, when the Chokorda's first wife
would adopt his daughter by his third.
It was Lebah who explained. She was childless. The third wife
was of far inferior rank. In order to have a daughter whose nobil-
ity would be unquestioned, the Chokorda was raising her caste-
position by this ceremony. Then she would be a true Chokorda;
she would be able to make a better marriage. It all seemed very
logical and practical.
This time the feast-dishes were memorable. The palace was
famous for its cooks, and even the clowns commented favorably
that night at the arja play outside the palace.
Little brother, what is the matter ... are you ill?
Wah! Have I eaten just now! Am I full! What a feast . . .
What elegant food! Turtle, duck, pig ... all of the best! How
can I possibly act? Adoh! Ado-o-oh! I have the cramps . . .
Here the clown bent double, writhed in agony.
Across the rectangle on a raised platform, I saw for the first
time that day the women of the palace, seated crowded together.
In t ceremonial clothes, with golden headdresses, golden flowers,
their tapering fingers covered with rings, they looked unbeliev-
ably aristocratic and fragile. Remote and beautiful, they sat
apart from the crowd, like an exclusive party of goddesses that
had just come down to earth to watch the play . . .
With Lebah I now traveled all over the island, for he knew
musicians in many villages. I kept hoping I might discover some
book, some ancient writing that had to do with the laws, the
theory of music. But none existed, it seemed, which struck me
as very curious, since there were books on everything else im-
aginable. As I talked with older men, hoping to gain a clearer
insight into the form and construction of the music they had
been playing, their answers were vague and hesitating. Laws ex-
isted in their minds, remembered instinctively rather than for-
mulated, and I could learn more in a half hour of observing than
I could in an afternoon of conversation. I had, of course, the
advantage of a complicated notation, and with this I could com-
pare the music of a dozen different villages and draw my own
I was now entirely absorbed in work. Everything seemed of
greatest interest, from the detail of the "flower parts" in a far-
off village by the sea, to the bare and simple melodies of the
mountain gamelans. As the days passed, I found myself thinking
less and less of composing. I began a work for orchestra, but I
knew I should not finish it. I wrote a few short pieces and forgot
about them a week later. The urge to write music had left, it
seemed. I recognized this with indifference, with relief even, and
I suddenly felt free and happy, liberated from some oppressive
responsibility in which I no longer believed.
One day a package arrived from Java, containing reprints of a
monograph I had written on the music of the shadowplay. It had
been published, to my great satisfaction, by the Java-Instituut in
Jokja, and I eagerly tore the package open.
Durus, Sampih and Lebah examined the books with respect,
and exclaimed with delight as they recognized the rather glum
dalang from Bangkasa among the photographs.
How much will you sell these books for? asked Durus, prac-
But when I explained that these were for my friends they
looked at each other in silence.
All that work, said Sampih. In vain!
They went out, to talk this over. I felt I had greatly disap-
KUTA, where I now went very often to pitch my tent for sev-
eral days, was a small fishing-village on the south coast, all sun-
shine and coral. Even the little temples were made of blocks of
coral, and in the daytime, as the sunlight filtered through the
palms, the village lay bathed in the tenderest gold and green.
The beach stretched in a wide crescent, and at low tide you
could drive the car for miles along the wet sand. Here, in the
late afternoon after a swim, I would stroll with Durus or Lebah,
looking in the pools among the few scattered rocks for sea
anemones, or picking up shells, tawny bishop's miters, Venus'
combs or shining porcelain olivas. Along the edge of the beach
stood a row of tentlike shelters to shade the fishermen's praus
from the sun, and for some months I had been thinking of build-
ing a hut in this fashion near by, where I could come from time
to time as a change from the hills. For I was forced to admit
that I found the skies of Sayan too often overcast, and the peo-
ple a bit austere and stolid. It seemed to me that the people of
the lowlands were very different from the people of the hills,
more open, freer, sunnier, and I felt a lightness of spirit the
moment I got out of the car at the market, all movement and
luminosity beneath the shaded screens like an afternoon of Pis-
saro. Here, before turning down the road that led to the beach,
I would sit for a while in the cool dark shop of my Chinese
friend Nam Sing, a serene and gentle hedonist, and drink a cup
But the real reason for my frequent trips to Kuta was the fact
that I could spend an afternoon with Lotring the composer,
whose name was known from one end of Bali to the other.
I had first heard of him through Nyoman Kaler, soon after
I came to Bali. I had been playing a few of my odd assortment
of records to Nyoman and several musicians from the village
the soft hothouse gamelans from the courts of Java, the gay and
brittle gamelans of Siam, primitive-sounding xylophones from
Africa. They listened intently and were quick to recognize
similarities with their own music. But soon they asked for my
Balinese records, and now they relaxed, to listen in utter con-
tentment. Among these were a few records made by the legong
gamelan of Kuta. They had a radiance, an animation and per-
fection that far surpassed any gamelan I had yet heard on the
B6h! cried a listener admiringly. Lotring's gamelan! That was
the foremost a few years back.
From Nyoman I learned that he and Lotring had led at one
time parallel lives. They had both been trained as nandir dancers
at the court of Blahbatu. As they grew older they both turned
to music. Each had a preference for the light swift music of the
shadowplay and legong. When Nyoman began to train the
dancers in Kedaton, Lotring had started the club in Kuta. His
dancers and musicians had become so famous they had made
records. They had also gone to Java to perform at the court of
the Sultan of Surakarta.
We listened to the records. The music on one was exceed-
ingly beautiful. Through a maze of intricate patterns a lovely
melody was heard that slowly unfolded as the rest of the music
rushed along at a breakneck speed. Suddenly the music changed.
A short motif repeated over and over while the drums grew agi-
tated. Tension increased like a spring being wound, but just at
the moment when you felt it must surely snap the opening
melody returned. Back and forth the two sections alternated
until in a climax of syncopated drumming the music came to
It was by Lotting himself. For Lotting was famed for his
compositions even more than for his teaching. His music was
played in all parts of the island. But" this piece was so difficult
that only his own musicians had ever learned it. Moreover, he
would not teach it. He wished to keep it a secret.
What happened to the gamelan of Kuta? I asked.
It broke up. There was a quarrel . . .
It is hard! He has no gamelan now. He teaches gandrung now
and then . . .
What does he do then, to live?
He is a fine goldsmith. His wives weave mats.
I was eager to meet him and said so. This was the first actual
composer I had heard of in this strange island so passionately
and yet so anonymously devoted to music. But perhaps there
was too much enthusiasm in my voice as I spoke, for as Nyoman
replied his own voice had all at once grown thin and distant.
But I waited in vain for Nyoman, and it was finally through
Kesyur that I made his acquaintance one night after an arja play
near Den Pasar. He had been playing the drum, and I was struck
by his nervous and sensitive features, and the incredible lightness
and speed of his drumming. As we spoke I had the impression
of a shy and elusive personality, but he was obviously pleased
when I said I had some records of the Kuta gamelan. I went to
see him once or twice at his house in Kuta, but it was already
near the time when I was leaving for Europe, and it was only
after my return that our acquaintance developed into a friend-
ship that was to last as long as I remained in Bali.
If Nyoman Kaler was the soul of the academic, Lotring
seemed to me the spirit of all that was living and creative. He
was everything that Nyoman was not He was warm and gentle,
naive, illiterate even, with a smile that went straight to your
heart. Although, as I grew to know him, I found that he was
vague and inconsistent about the theory of music, he was, when
it came to practice, a keen critic and a superb craftsman, and the
music I learned from him was, I think, the most beautiful of all
I heard on the island.
For a Balinese the actual process of composing is something
very different from our own. Music is not emotional self-
revelation; it is before all, functional, an accompaniment to rite
or drama. Composing is evolving rather than creating, and these
days a new melody was rare. What marked a piece as new was
style rather than content, and no one ever dreamed of criticizing
it on the grounds that he had heard the tunes before.
But Lotring actually did create new tunes and new forms. He
spoke of himself in the romantic terms of your true composer,
and were it not for the modest, and rather worried tone of his
voice, I should never have believed him.
K6wah! It is hard! to compose. Sometimes I cannot sleep for
nights, thinking of a new piece. It turns round and round in my
thoughts. I hear it in my dreams. My hair has grown thin think-
ing of music. But now, he sighed, I have no gamelan.
How do you get started on a new composition, Lotring?
Who can say? Sometimes a tune comes of its own accord,
sometimes from something I've heard.
He laughed. I got the idea for one piece from a clock.
How was that?
A Chinese man here in Kuta had a little clock that pkyed
every hour. Really pretty. I often listened to it. I could not for-
get the tune. One day I made it into a piece for the Kuta game-
Ian. Soon everyone near Den Pasar wanted to learn it.
I was reminded suddenly of Prince Jojodipura as I listened to
his gamelan one evening in Java. We have a new piece, he said,
called Westminster. It was drawn from the chimes on one of
And indeed, as the gamelan played, the familiar tones slowly
floated in the air, perfumed and softly ringing, covered with
dreamy arabesques that created a heavy atmosphere of langor
and sensuous mysticism.
But this was a literal transcription, orchestrated in the elegant
court manner. Lotring, on the other hand, had used the little
tune from the clock merely as a point of departure for a creation
of his own. (As I listened to it on the record I could not recog-
nize anything that sounded in the least like a tune that might
have come from a clock.) He had an unusual gift for continuity
of line; his music built, and his melodies were full of surprise
and charming irregularity. As for the compositions themselves,
they were intended as interludes between dances.
He was clearly unhappy over the breaking-up of the club in
Kuta. The quarrel, it seemed, had been bitter a loud dispute
over money. The big gong was now in the pawnshop, and al-
though it was now five years since the altercation there were still
hard feelings in the village. There seemed little chance of form-
ing a new club. Now, at loose ends, his life completely lacking
in direction, Lotring indeed seemed lost. He was no longer in
demand as a teacher, for he had no interest in the style of
kebyar, and his music had a far more subtle vitality. Even as a
goldsmith he could no longer earn a living, for there was little
money these days for the flowers and headdresses of thin beaten
gold, the rings and bracelets, the silver bowls that not so long
ago had kept craftsmen busy from morning till night. Instead,
he now made a wooden tray from time to time on the turning-
It was perhaps as much for my own sake as Lotring's that I
began to wonder if there were not some way to start a new club
in Kuta. As I listened to the records I felt I would not rest until
I had succeeded in bringing the gamelan back to life. It was not
only the lovely sound and animation of the music. It was indeed,
unlikely as it may seem, for the sake of one single piece, the one
unfathomable and inspired piece of Lotring's, which no gamelan
had ever learned, that I wished before all to bring this about. At
one tipie Lotring had tried to teach it to me. But I never got
past the melody. The rest was impossible to grasp except through
Beh! That was the most stubborn piece I ever thought of! he
would exclaim in pride. It took the club two months to learn.
The Raja of Solo was overcome!
Didn't his musicians wish to learn it? I asked.
He laughed. They thought it mad. It was too fast, too loud.
They could make nothing of the flowers. But I was not sur-
prised. The gamelans of Java sound as though the men were
sound asleep. In their music nothing ever happens.
I had not seen Lotring for months, since the time he spent a
month at the house in Sayan teaching me the music of the
shadowplay. I had been preoccupied once more with Sampih's
lessons, but now I began to think again of the Kuta gamelan.
One afternoon I drove down to see Lotring.
I came into the little courtyard to find him playing to himself
on the g'nder. He rose and gave me a smile of welcome. As I
stepped up into the main pavilion I noticed a colored print of
the Virgin Mary and Child hanging on the wall. I was startled.
Missionaries were now frequent visitors on the island, unoffi-
cially making a quiet conversion.
What is this? I asked.
But to my relief he only replied, The Queen of Holland. I
bought it in Bulelng. He chased a hen off the sewing-machine,
drew out a chair and asked me to sit down.
I told him that my mind was set on bringing back to life the
Kuta gamelan. I did not see why it could not be done. The in-
struments were still complete. I myself would be responsible for
redeeming the gong from the pawnshop in Den Pasar. We talked
for an hour. At first Lotring's face was bright, but he began to
shake his head It would be too difficult. A thousand obstacles
stood in the way.
Let us call Limoh, I said. He will know, for he was secretary
when the club broke up.
Lotring called out to a small child and said, Go fetch Limoh
from the market. He called again to Renu, his younger wife, to
make some coffee.
Limoh arrived at last, and for another hour we talked. He
listened thoughtfully. He was an intelligent youth with an initia-
tive that had made him head of the banjar before he was twenty.
He agreed with Lotring that it would be difficult to form a new
club. Some of the old members would follow; others would not,
and these last would be sure to make trouble. He would call the
banjar together that night and present my plan.
It was sunset by now, and Limoh and I walked down to the
beach for a swim. We passed the fishermen dragging their boats
down to the water's edge. There! I said, pointing to a plot of
ground beneath the palms, where I often pitched my tent. I
should like to build a hut there, where I could come and stay.
I would be near the gamelan, and could know the people of
You are welcome to the land, said Limoh. It is my uncle's. I
have only to ask for it. The gamelan club perhaps can build the
hut. It will be easy.
It was only after a week of apparently discordant discussions
that the banjar was ready to consider the matter at all. One night
we talked the matter out.
The old members who would not return claimed a part inter-
est in the instruments. They would have to be paid off. The
gamelan must be repaired. The drums had been destroyed by
rats; the gold on the instruments had been tarnished; the keys
were out of tune. Moreover, a gamelan without dancers was not
to be considered.
We now discussed these dancers. A theatrical troup, to give
the Chalonarang play, was in the hearts of all. But this seemed
too ambitious right now, and there was little money for cos-
tumes. It was decided to train 16gong once more. Lotring, and
his younger wife Renu, who had been one of the famous dancers,
would teach. We made up a list of expenses.
goldleaf for gamelan 25 rupia
tuner from Karangasem
(including bus fare) 10 rupia
redeeming gong 50 "
cloth for costumes 25 "
goldleaf for same 30 "
buying off old members 100 "
I stated that I would give the money for the gong and the
silencing of the old members. This was my present to the new
club. In return, they were to build me a well-constructed hut,
one I could lock, on the beach. It was to be in the style of the
lean-tos where the boats were kept. Agreed! Agreed! In a state
of enthusiasm we sat talking and smoking for hours.
A week later the tuner arrived, and the men had begun to cut
down the coconut-palms for the pillars to my hut. For days the
tuner filed away at the bronze keys of the instruments and ad-
justed new bamboo resonators below the keys. Until a bamboo
"matched" with absolute precision the key above it, the tone
of the key remained dead. Patiently the tuner cut, trimmed,
listened for the echo in the tube. Suddenly the sympathetic re-
lationship was found, and the key sang. He then proceeded to
the next. At last his work was done, and that evening the club
gathered to play for the first time. The tones of the gamelan
rang with a new radiance, a softness and translucence impossible
to describe. The tuner smiled.
No gamelan has ever had a more sweetly penetrating voice!
he said. Shining! like gold! He seemed very pleased with his
As for the hut, it was simplicity itself to build and was finished
in three days. It stood at the edge of the beach, beneath the
palms/ and through the open door you looked straight out on
the sea. It was long and narrow, and the palm-thatch came down
like a tent, touching the ground. The pillars were thick columns
of coconut that had been planed smooth, and rested on heavy
round blocks of coral. The floor was the white sand. A low bed
of bamboo, a table and two or three deck chairs completed the
For three months I practically lived in Kuta, returning to
Sayan only to see that all was well at the house. The finishing
of the hut was of course celebrated by a feast to the club. Lo-
tring and Nam Sing roasted a pig Chinese style, split flat, rubbed
with soya, palm-sugar and anis. Long after we had eaten we sat
in the moonlight, keeping the fire alive and listening to one arja
record after another on the phonograph. Disturbed by all this
the turtledove which Limoh had given me woke in its cage and
uttered a few low notes.
This prompted one of the boys to begin a tale of birds who
wished to become actors and musicians. Let us form a club, they
said, and give a play. The turtledove was chosen for the part of
gentle prince Panji; the jungle-fowl seemed suited for the r61e
the wild Prabangsa. The ricebird would be princess. (And so on
through the company the birds were cast according to their
voices and appearances.) When the actors had been carefully
chosen, they now considered the musicians. The lark, of course,
would play the flute, the owl the gong. The seagull was assigned
the two-stringed fiddle, the starling the cymbals, while the wood-
pecker would beat time on the Jca/ar. All were delighted. Pleased
with their success, the club thought they would play before the
king, to show him they are as fine as the actors of the palace.
But now a dispute arises among the birds over how much to
charge. Five thousand copper cash, suggests one bird, ten thou-
sand demands another. The birds take sides . . .
Just like the gamelan of Kuta, I remarked.
They laughed. A club is like that, said Lotring. One day
united, the next divided in thought. In the time when I was
young it was different. Men were less restless in the old days . . .
Often, as I sat on the floor of the clubhouse, listening to the
men rehearse, I would ask a g'nd6r player to move aside while
I took his place for a while. I never was able to master the com-
plicated technic of holding a g'nder-stick in each hand, silenc-
ing the keys just struck while at the same time striking the next.
Instead, I used a single hammer, in the modern style. This was
enough, however, for me to experience the sensation of being,
at least for the moment, completely united, in close and abso-
lute sympathy with the players, lost with them in the rhythm
of the music. I knew the melodies by heart, and as I played I felt
both peace and exhilaration in this nameless, tacit accord. Here
there was no conductor's stick to beat time, no overeloquent
hands to urge or subdue. The drumming of Lotting was at times
barely audible; you felt it rather than heard it, and the music
seemed to rush ahead on its own impetus. You were swept along
the stream, no longer knew what you were doing. It was some-
thing free and purely physical, like swimming or running.
The rehearsals were divided between training the new dancers
and learning the music. A few new members had joined, boys
of twelve or so for the most part, and they followed the older
men, gave themselves up to the rehearsals with fierce devotion.
In a few months the gamelan had regained its former brilliance,
and to me it sounded even more enchanting than it did in the
records that had been made eight years before.
Lotting had composed new music for the dbut of the
dancers. He was a different person these days, I thought. Word
had already spread of this new activity in Kuta, and already he
had been asked to train dancers for the Anak Agung of Kapal.
The day of the consecration of the dancers and their first public
appearance, people came for miles to see the performance.
The little girls were beautifully trained, in a style quite differ-
ent from that in Gianyar. It was less classical. There were all
sorts of little innovations. (Champlung would laugh, I thought,
to see the raven jump down from a chair.) As I followed the
dancers, watched the obvious delight of the audience in their
smallness and swift agility, I was suddenly reminded of the pup-
pets of the shadowplay and the little, sharply cut figures of the
temple reliefs. There seemed to me a close relationship; a cycle
presented itself. Through a series of transitions stone became
mobile; its hard contours had broken up and dissolved. Puppets
brought the reliefs to life; men whose faces were still concealed
behind masks gave fluidity to the stiff gestures of the puppets,
and, discarding at last the shell that marked them as only half
human, emerged from the chrysalis as humans, humans, how-
ever, whose faces were still frozen and masklike. Slowly the
archaic yielded to a new sensuousness in the dancing of boys or
girls, who gave to gesture the lyric grace of youth. But there was
still a further stage of refinement, where adolescence gave way
to childhood. Now the circle was closed, for in their sexless and
doll-like performance the legong dancers had only to be petrified
to become once more puppets or little carved figures of the gods.
The club flourished. The members seemed very happy, and
they now played everywhere. They did not make any money to
speak of, but this was not the objective. As for Lotring, he ex-
perienced a new popularity. He composed several new pieces,
and was suddenly in great demand as a teacher. I too had bene-
fitted, for my hut in Kuta had become a second home. But per-
haps my greatest pleasure lay in the knowledge that I at last had
captured the secret of Lotring's music. There was the compo-
sition which had first caught my attention written down in full,
intricate, ingenious, a miracle of rhythm. Yet it had not been
too difficult to understand after all, for as the musicians prac-
ticed it phrase by phrase the passages which I had once found
impossible to grasp now became perfectly clear. I could only
marvel at Lotring's imagination, for the ornamental flowers in
this music were quite unlike any others I ever heard on the
island. Lebah was quite as enchanted as I was, and when he had
learned to play them (for he often sat in at rehearsals) he could
hardly wait to return to Pliatan where he could teach them to
the men in his own club.
ONE morning Durus came into the room where I was writing
to announce that an old man was out on the veranda with a set
of cricket-cages he wished to sell. If you bought them we could
easily find crickets, he pled.
I went outside. The cages were beautifully made. Fitted into
an elegant lacquered box were a dozen little cylinders of bam-
boo, neatly slit all around, and with a glass stopper at each end
so that you could get a clear view of the cricket inside. There
was also a set of tiny brushes with which to irritate the crickets
and put them in a mood for battle. I was undecided, but Durus
insisted, saying we could go that night to look for crickets in the
fields. He and Sampih would look after them for me.
That night we hunted with our flashlights, and after we re-
turned home we selected with much deliberation twelve that
seemed the most spirited and shut each one in a cage.
Looking after them was like looking after a dozen royal chil-
dren. Every morning each cricket was bathed, brushed, and ex-
amined for signs of a drooping spirit They were fed on rice
soaked in arac to make them strong, and spiced with red pepper
to develop their tempers. Each must swim daily in a basin of
water for ten minutes to exercise the leg muscles. The box was
hung outside my bedroom door, and at night I could not sleep
for the chirping.
Sometimes a boy from the village, or even Chokorda Rahi,
accompanied by two or three followers, would come to the
house, bringing their own crickets, and we would settle down on
the floor of the veranda to an agreeable morning of diversion.
Matches were arranged; bets made; little piles of money shoved
forward. A little crowd soon gathered from nowhere to look on.
A fight was an exhibition of insect ferocity that drove the
spectators quite wild with excitement. Two cages were placed
end to end. The crickets were prodded to a state of frenzy; the
ends of the boxes were then slipped out and the fight was on.
We leaned forward, watching intently and exclaiming at each
step of the battle as Durus or Chokorda Rahi urged his cricket
on with the brush. It was usually a fight to the death, and you
could hear tiny jaws click and snap as the insects rolled over
each other. When a cricket gave up and ran to one end of the
tube everyone cried out in disgust, and it was removed, to be
impaled on a straw along with the vanquished and mutilated,
and taken home and fried.
For a month or more my cages remained filled with crickets,
but after a while we tired of them, and the cages were emptied
and put away.
Sometimes I would amuse Sampih and old Rendah with
tabloid versions of the people of Lilliput and how Gulliver
walked off with the navy. They would listen for hours to tales
of magic lamps, flying carpets, and tables set with food by in-
What was there to eat? Sampih would ask.
Oh, rice, perhaps; turtle, ice cream . . .
The story of Cinderella reminded him of the arja play, of the
princess who married Green Frog. Did I know that story?
I shook my head. Sampih began.
There was once a prince of Daha who was so filled with magic
power that even his urine must be saved for six weeks. Only
then, when it was no longer dangerous, might it be thrown
One day the prince was hunting in the forest. He came to a
lake, where he made water. In this forest a young woman was
gathering firewood. She was very thirsty; when she came to the
pool she drank. At once she felt a burning sensation in her
throat. She felt something slide up into her mouth, across her
tongue, to appear between her lips. It was a small green frog,
holding a pumpkin seed, and she took it home to care for it as
The frog told the woman to plant the seed, and soon there
was a vine with a handsome pumpkin. Green Frog now said,
Take this pumpkin to the court of Daha and say to the prince
that I wish to marry his daughter. But when the woman ap-
peared at the palace she was killed, and her body thrown away
in the forest. Green Frog found her and brought her to life.
This happened three times, and the third time the prince con-
All this time the princess was kept in the pigsty by her step-
mother. Her stepsister beat her every day. She was very happy
when they said she was to be married, but when she found her
husband was only a small green frog she began to weep.
Green Frog was in despair. He went to the forest and prayed
to Shiva. Suddenly a great voice was heard telling him hifskin
would peel off like a jacket. Green Frog removed his skin as he
was told. There he stood, a youth of royal appearance.
He returned to the court and married the princess. She fell
in love with him the moment she saw him.
One afternoon, as Lebah and I were driving home from Taba-
nan, we saw approaching a gleaming white car that drove along
at top speed and passed us in a flash.
The dog-ambulance! said Lebah.
It belonged to the little Australian veterinarian who lived
with his wife and family in Den Pasar. He had been here a year,
sent out on a mission of salvation by a tourist, an elderly woman
with a great love for dogs. English or AmericanI had heard
both rumors. She had seen only the dogs as she traveled about
the island, and had found their plight apparently quite dreadful.
The island was simply overrun with dogs, the doctor said as I
talked with him in the grocery shop of Nam Sing in town. The
villages must be cleared, litters destroyed. Some dogs would be
nursed to health, others shot. The program was complicated.
He spoke eagerly and earnestly.
He waited six months for his ambulance, when he could begin
his work. At last it arrived, a beautiful modern van, complete
with porcelain trays and shining instruments. Unfortunately, it
was found to be too large to cross any of the bridges, and its
activities were confined from the beginning.
Up and down the ri9ge that ran from Den Pasar to the
mountains the doctor worked, shooting, curing, operating and
chloroforming. Soon the villages were quiet, and much of the
scavenging was now left to the pigs. The doctor felt he could
take a holiday in the hills of Java.
He returned to find that a new generation of dogs was already
growing up. In no time at all his ridge was noisy as ever. He
started out once more, but when I met him in town he seemed
a little depressed.
It's a handsome car, I said to Lebah, as we drove through its
With that money, how many bottles of quinine could have
been bought! he said. There are many sick people in the villages.
If there are few dogs, he added, how will the villages remain
clean? . . .
I said that in America many dogs wore coats when they went
out in the rain, had shoes and knitted sweaters.
But this he refused to believe.
THE CREMATION IN SABA
I HAD not been to the palace in Saba for over a year, and when
I passed Gusti Bagus on the road his greetings were a mixture
of reproach for having forgotten him and a haste to be gone
about his own affairs. What was the news? we asked each other.
Agung Biang was hurt because I no longer came to see her. His
father, the old Anak Agung, was slowly dying. Only opium now
kept him alive and out of pain. The expense was ruinous, said
Gusti Bagus. They had sold more ricefields . . .
Sometimes a messenger would arrive on foot from Saba, hav-
ing trudged twenty miles with a basket containing two or three
fine durian fruit, if it happened to be the season, or perhaps an
old mask or piece of stone sculpture, for the Anak Agung knew
I collected these, although he could not possibly see why. When
a thing was old you threw it out, and he could not understand
my enthusiasm for a carving or ancient bronze lamp, green with
age, any more than he could understand my love for the stiff,
unadorned music of the mountain villages.
These little gifts were the most delicate reminders of his affec-
tion. Now and then, as though to put my own friendship to the
test, he would send his messenger with a scribbled note saying
he wished to borrow some ringgits. This was his favorite currency
for the cockfights, and I was pretty sure that he was off to some
contest, especially as he waited outside in his car, preferring not
to come in and see me. Sometimes I obliged him, sometimes
not. It depended on how much I felt indebted to him at the
moment, for these little loans were never referred to, and it is a
poor friendship where balance is not maintained.
One afternoon Kesyur arrived to invite me to his child's six-
month birthday feast. He would kill a turtle, of course, and there
would be a shadowplay at night. He also told me the latest news
from Saba. Gusti Bagus had recently married the little 16gong
dancer, whom he had "taken" last year. With the kris, that is,
For as she was a commoner she had remained in the rank of
a mere concubine. But when it was found she was to bear a
child, the Anak Agung had had the marriage ceremony per-
formed. She had gone home, but on the day of the ceremony,
instead of going to fetch her himself, he had, since she was so
much lower than he was, merely sent his kris.
Is the child born yet? I asked.
Yes, said Kesyur. It's too bad . . . It's a girl.
But he already has a son.
A girl was always loss, replied Kesyur.
When, one morning, I finally drove to Saba to pay a visit, I
found the Anak Agung before the palace gates, buried beneath
his car. He emerged with caution. A gear-wheel was broken, he
announced dejectedly. But in a moment this was forgotten as he
began to tell me of his new plans to restore the pool in the park.
This time I shall use concrete, he said. And run a concrete
bridge out across the water. His eyes shone.
I nodded. We walked across the court to the main pavilion.
On the table lay a large piece of cloth, covered with half-painted-
in figures. He had been designing another picture. It was the
Temptation of Arjuna, and in the center Arjuna sat, hands
clasped in the pose of an ascetic, his eyes focused on his nose in
meditation. He would ask strength from Siva to overcome the
demon Kala. On either side a smiling, teasing nymph (sent by
the demon) attempted to distract him. Others danced seduc-
tively in transparent draperies, while below, old Tualen, the
faithful attendant, made shameless, indecent love to still another
nymph whose willingness was all too apparent. Fantastic trees
with florid birds and widely indented foliage filled all spaces, and
the picture was framed in a border of vines and flowers. It had
the colors and artificial style of the shadow-puppets, but the
Anak Agung's lively personality seemed to shine through it all,
for the lines were bold and exuberant, and the whole thing was
done with sweep and flair.
He laughed at my admiration. It was nothing! There was only
one scene. Later he would do a long and narrative picture about
the abduction of the princess Sita.
For a picture to be good, he said, it must have a little of every-
thing in it fighting, a little love, comedy and grief. Like a well-
made dish there must be mingled sweet, salt, a taste of acid, a
taste of bitter . . .
And this? I asked, pointing to the incalescent love scene.
It gives the savor, he replied. Like sra. Like shrimp-paste.
Where will you put the picture when it is finished?
At the head of my bed, above the pillows . . .
At this moment Agung Biang appeared. She looked careworn,
I thought, as our eyes met. But her smile had lost none of its
welcome. She came up and put her arms around me. She stroked
my cheek. Why have you not been to see your mother for so
long? she asked.
I could not think why I had stayed away all this time. For
in spite of its ruin, and the cares that now beset it more and
more, the palace retained its atmosphere of unbroken peace and
friendliness. The warmth of Agung Biang was so real, her voice
so softly concerned, that she made you feel like a favorite child
rather than an honored guest. Our sympathy did not depend on
words, for our conversations were of the simplest. Sometimes, as
I spoke to her, I would use the wrong word by mistake, one you
would use only when speaking to a commoner, and then she
would draw herself up with sudden majesty and say, You may
not use that word to me, for I am a princess. But then she would
soften and laugh, and we would go on talking, for it was clear
I knew no better.
It was perhaps six months later that a messenger arrived from
Saba with the news that the old Anak Agung had died at last.
Agung Biang was ill from grief. Preparations for the cremation
had begun, and the day was fixed a month away. The Anak
Agung invited me to the feast.
I arrived that day to find the square in front of the palace in
a turmoil. Several lesser noble families of Saba had decided to
take advantage of the auspicious day and cremate their dead at
the same time, and along the road that led up to the palace stood
rows of bright cremation towers. Coffins carved in the form of
bulls, cows and winged lions, colored red, orange, or black, and
festooned with golden streamers, stood waiting at the doorways.
From within the palace came the sound of music which was
played only for the rites of death. Above the dry, wooden sound
of ancient xylophones that rattled a hollow accompaniment
there rang the hard metallic tones of gangsas in a strange, anvil-
like chorale, irresolute, uncertain, as though the players could
barely recall the melody. On and on the music played, passion-
less, colorless, filling the air with mournful sound that seemed
curiously at variance with all the excitement and confusion.
There were many guests, and the rich aroma of festive cooking
floated over the walls from the kitchens, the smell of spice and
freshly grated coconut, of roasting turtle and pig.
Before the palace gates the wadah, the tower which would
bear the body of the old Anak Agung to the cremation ground,
stood glistening like a Christmas tree. It rose high above our
heads, a complicated structure of bamboo, and from the many
little roofs that ascended pagoda-like above the platform high up
where the body would rest there fluttered fringes of tinsel and
gold, fringes of tissue-paper dyed every color of the spectrum.
A steep runway ran up to the little platform, like a gangplank to
the sky, and the back of the tower was half hidden behind the
enormous staring head and spreading wings of Bhoma, son of
the earth. But even as I stood admiring this wonderful affair, the
Anak Agung came up with the Brahman priest, a troubled look
on his face. Something had gone wrong.
He had, it seemed, in his exuberant and characteristic love
for the grand gesture, built a wadah with eleven roofs. This,
however, was above his rank. He must have known it; for his
family, in spite of their connection with the royal house of
Karangasem, were not Dewas, but merely Anaks. The sarcoph-
agus too had been built above his station. This the priest re-
luctantly agreed to overlook, since it was too late to change it,
but he insisted with quiet firmness that two roofs be removed
from the wadah. It was a bitter pill. Reluctantly the Anak Agung
gave the order, and three men climbed the tower, to disfigure it
before the eyes of the world.
Do not take a picture of it, said the Anak Agung somberly as
we stood watching side by side. It is ruined. He stood looking a
moment longer, then disappeared into the palace to take charge
of other urgent matters.
It was late in the afternoon when there was a sudden sound of
commotion within the palace, and all at once, through the high
ceremonial gate a crowd of struggling, shouting men bore the
body swathed in white down the steps, across the court and out
to the tower, mounting the tottering runway to place it on the
little platform high above our heads. A hundred men stood
ready, waiting to lift the tower to their shoulders. The priest and
musicians mounted the base, to accompany the dead prince to
the cremation-pile. To the sound of the soft, agitated music of
the shadowplay the hands of the priest began to move, forming
the holy gestures. Shouting, the bearers grasped the poles; the
wadah quivered, began to lean.
It rose like a ship leaving port in a stormy sea. Slowly it got
under way and was born careening down the road. One by one
the other towers began to rise, to follow to the sound of drums
and gongs. As each wadah came to the dangerous crossroads it
was turned around and around, to confuse the demons ever
waiting to do harm. Once more, as the road turned south, the
wadahs revolved and were lost to view.
Behind, in the square before the palace, the crowd was like
the troubled wake of a ship. All were preparing to depart for the
cremation grounds. I sent Lebah for my cameras, and decided I
would take the shortcut through the fields, so that I might photo-
graph the procession as it arrived.
But now, through the palace gates, at the top of the steps, a
woman appeared, incredibly old and wasted, supported at either
side by two young girls. Her hair was ashen-white, her face a
worm-eaten mask; she wore a trailing sarong of black cloth, and
from her waist her withered body shone pale ocher in the kte
afternoon sun that flooded her with a fading brilliance. It was
the old, old princess, the mother of the dead Anak Agung. With
unseeing eyes she looked down on the scene. Slowly, blindly, she
descended the steps, to travel with difficulty to the outer gate.
But there she paused, for she could go no farther, and as I left
I saw her standing there, staring blindly out into nothing.
Scattered over the cremation ground the funeral pyres stood
waiting. As the towers arrived a scene of wild excitement now
took place. One by one the dead were lifted down and laid in
the sarcophagi, which now stood in gaily decorated pavilions of
bamboo above the piles of wood. Fires began to burn; smoke
rose. Soon a wave of flames enveloped the great white bull which
contained the remains of the old prince, and which stood there,
stiff and staring like an animal on a carrousel.
I had not seen Agung Biang that day, but now I suddenly
came across her in the crowd. There were no flowers in her hair,
no bright scarf around her breast. Distracted, unhappy, she wan-
dered aimlessly here and there, taking no part, talking to no one.
I was shocked by the change in her since her illness. She was
no longer the strong, protective mother, the regal princess. She
was instead a child, an old woman wistful and lost, forgotten in
the crowd, and her face was lonely and bewildered.
Darkness fell; the fires burned down. Little by little the con-
fusion spent itself, and after the ashes of the dead had been gath-
ered the crowd dispersed.
A month later I went down to the sea to wait for the wadahs
to arrive from Saba with the ashes of the dead. It was midafter-
noon. High cumulus clouds lay piled along the horizon, and to
the east the far-off mountains of Lombok reflected a golden
green. I sat in the shade of a lean-to, while Durus, lying on the
sand, began to tell of how, long ago, when men subsisted, like
butterflies, solely on the juice of fhe sugar cane, a situation arose
whereby, as though by accident, more nourishing plants began
to grow in this world.
Batara Guru fell in love with the heavenly nymph, Ratna
Dumilah. But she would have nothing to do with him before he
had promised her three gifts delicious food of which she would
never tire, fine sarongs that would never wear out, and a gamelan
that would play, without musicians, the sweetest of music. But
while the demon Kala was sent in search of these she died. Sud-
denly, a month after her burial, from her grave different plants
were seen to grow. From her head rose the coconut-palm, from
the pit of her stomach rice, corn, the sugar-palm and the pen-
dulous plants. From her feet came tubers taro, yams, and the
creeping plants whose fruits are cucumbers and the different
That is the origin of the plants, said Durus . . .
But now far off in the distance there was the sound of bright
processional music, the melodious ringing of g'ndrs and little
gongs above the sound of drums and cymbals.
The music grew louder. Across the fields and down the road
to the shore the processions of wadahs approached.
They were tall delicate spires of white, now decorated only
with gold foil and a thousand little mirrors, and as they traveled
along the road the gold and mirrors flashed in the sun as though
the wadahs were lit with candles. In their fragility, their loftiness,
their paper-white radiance, the slender towers celebrated this
final and lovely rite when the ashes, the last earthly relics, would
be dissolved completely in the sea. Now the soul was free at
last, free to float away, join its forefathers, merge, said some, in
the ancestral soul.
Along the sand the wadahs were set in a row. While men and
women waded singing out into the water as far as they dared, to
cast away the ashes, boys climbed the quivering towers to tear
away the streamers, the gold, the precious little mirrors. Now the
wadahs were set afire. One by one they fell with a crash. In the
dusk the fires burned themselves out, and to the sound of music
the procession returned to Saba.
A SECOND DEPARTURE
IT was more than two years since I had come to Sayan, and I
began to make plans for going to America for some months, for
I had business to attend to, and I also felt I needed to get away.
It might be a year before I returned, perhaps longer, and it was
decided after much discussion that while I was away, Sampih
would go to school in Ubud,
He already knew how to read and write, for I had sent him
three days a week, together with Luar, a friend his own age, to
study with Mad6 Gria, the dalang. For a while the lessons were
an excitement, and the two boys learned to write and read in
both Malay and Balinese very rapidly. But after a month or so
the novelty wore off, and one day I arrived unexpectedly at Mad6
Gria's house to find both teacher and pupils stretched out, sound
asleep. Soon Luar stopped going; he wished to go to school, he
said, and though Sampih now wanted to go with him, I per-
suaded him not to with bribes. ,
For I dreaded the schools and the Indonesian teachers, with
their hatred for the past and their determination to stamp out all
traces of native culture. I had often looked in a doorway, drawn
by the droning chant of lessons which were suddenly broken into
from time to time by shrill cries of fury from the teacher. An
art class was especially disheartening. No flower, bird or tree
might now be drawn in the decorative, traditional style. Realism
was now the aim, and the children learnt the laws of true per-
spective, in order to produce endless drawings in which a cat
or motorcar traveled down the straight road to infinity, a road
invariably bordered by perfectly diminishing telegraph poles and
vanishing in the exact center of the page. Mood was given to the
picture by flushing it with lavish sunrise or covering it with
driving rain. The children also drew, from copies that hung
about the room, countless pictures of wardrobes, tables, war-
ships, planes and Dutch windmills. When a child drew without
a ruler the teacher was beside him in a moment with his switch.
This physical punishment, this imported gesture, was some-
thing new for the pupils, for at home they were rarely chastised.
They grew up in freedom, seldom giving any trouble, for at the
age of four a boy was already a "small man/ 7 with a fine sense
of his own responsibility in herding ducks or taking the great
water buffaloes to the stream each day for their bath. At home
the children of Rendah would mimic the teacher with that pecu-
liar gift of the Balinese for cutting satire. They would have the
family in fits of laughter as they reproduced the sharp, dry, per-
petually furious voice, the quick raps of his ruler against the side
of the desk, and the way he would descend like the wrath of
Shiva, striking here and there and breathing hard in his excite-
ment. This shameless exhibition of rage, this frantic exposure
of the frantic inner self was, while terrifying enough at the mo-
ment, a subject for endless parody, once you were back in your
own village, safe again within familiar walls, surrounded by
Neither Agung Mandra, the perbekel of Pliatan and the head
of Sampih's club, nor I, however, felt that Sampih would now
be the worse for a little restraint. He had become spoiled and
quite unruly, practicing and dancing one week with devotion,
performing the next with utter indifference. He knew per-
fectly well when he was dancing badly, and I could not help
smiling at the way in which he had already found out how to
cover up a poor performance with some little trick an exag-
gerated flourish, a quick manipulation of his train so that the
gold brocade glittered magnificently, a sudden smile the charm
of which he was now well aware of or the rapid veiling of his
glance beneath long lashes. At present, said Agung Mandra, he
was making absolutely no progress. He was both the delight and
the despair of the club.
All this, however, I could sympathize with, for I secretly ad-
mired his quick resourcefulness, his already professional instinct
for the camouflage of the artist, and I understood only too well
his alternating moods of intense enthusiasm and utter boredom.
But this sympathy I did not show, for it was clear he was in need
Yet where to turn for the authority so badly needed to give
his life direction? Not to me, alas, who must remain always the
outsider. Nor to his family. Only recently his father had split his
mother's head half open with a blow from his heavy knife, aimed
suddenly as she passed in the yard for no other reason, appar-
ently, than to silence her scolding tongue. We found her at
nightfall, lying in the fields alone. I poured brandy down her
throat, and then Lebah and I raised her to her feet and helped
her stagger home. She recovered in a week, indestructible, and
talkative as ever. But Sampih did not recover so easily from the
terror of that dreadful moment.
I will surely Jb'II him when I am older, he said in a low voice
that was tense with ferocity, and I was startled to see how dark
his face had become, how much it suddenly resembled his
father's . . .
All at once I remembered Ida Bagus Ged6. He never failed to
remind me, when I went to visit him, that I had taken away a
boy intended to enter later his household. What exactly the
relationship was that existed between this old priest and Sam-
pih's family I never knew, but it was something both ancient and
feudal, for he always spoke possessively of Sampih, and made
much to-do over the fact that I had robbed him of his rightful
One afternoon I walked across the valley to Bangkasa to ask
his help. I said that only he, it seemed, could guide and control
the restless nature of this boy whom I had, perhaps, been wrong
in taking from him. To his words only did Sampih seem to listen
with attention . . .
He smiled with great gentleness at the boy who sat before him
with hands folded in a sembah, now docile and subdued, and
touched him on the shoulder.
Let him return to me, he said.
We talked. It was decided that Sampih should live partly in
the household of Ida Bagus, learning the ways of a well-brought-
up budak, and partly at home. He would go to school in Ubud
(Ida Bagus frowned) and rehearse each week in Pliatan.
Through the trees a shaft of light from the setting sun now
fell on the priest as he sat there, turning the white folds of his
robes translucent and luminous. I began the polite phrases of
departure, but Ida Bagus wished first to give me his benediction,
for I was leaving soon and would not see him again. Had I
chosen an auspicious day? Would I remember to make offerings
and take formal farewell of the gods at the altar of the Sun God
in the cemetery? He prayed for my safety in traveling, cleansed
me with flower-scented holy-water. In the dusk, followed by
Sampih, I walked through the fields and down the valley towards
home, thinking of him sitting there, serene and so strangely reas-
suring, enveloped in his faith.
A few days later it was the end of December in 19351 left.
Soon after my arrival in New York I had a letter from Lotring,
written (I imagined) by Limoh, and giving me news from Kuta.
Then there was a long silence, and at last a letter arrived from
The club had broken up once more. The dancers were not
sufficiently in demand. The gong was back in the pawnshop in
Den Pasar. Where my hut once stood a "hotel" was now being
built for tourists. Would I please send a cowboy belt from
I looked at the signature.
With all honor,
TWO YEARS LATER
WHEN Lebah met me in Bulel6ng on my return to Bali two
years later he was full of important news. The island was pre-
paring to celebrate the restoration of self-government. By order
of the Queen the eight regents would be reinvested with a sem-
blance of their earlier power; in a month's time each regent
would, in his own district, swear a new oath of allegiance in the
temple before the high priest and receive from the resident the
new title of Zelf-Bestuurder or self-ruler. For this event the Re-
gent of Gianyar had already decided on a brilliant three-day feast,
in which he hoped, as usual, to outshine the others. He had
already sent out invitations. Lebah handed me mine as I got
in the car.
A typewritten page outlined the events.
June 29; 6 A.M. Firecrackers to be set off before the palace.
The Gamelan with the Great Gongs to begin to sound. 7 A.M.
Paduka Tuanku Zelfbestuurder, followed by all officials of the
land of Gianyar, to set out for the temple of Besakih on the
slopes of the Gunung Agung. 1:30. Drill of the Padvinders be-
fore the palace; reception within. In the evening the baris or
ancient warriors' dance; midnight till dawn arja from Batuan.
June 30; 6 A.M, Firecrackers ...
On the third day, I read, there would be a great contest of
gamelans. I saw included the village of Pliatan. It was this that
Lebah had been waiting for.
Behl he exclaimed, his voice eager and excited. All the rajas
will come; all Bali will be there!
What is the prize to be?
He looked at me. Honor onlyl I knew as well as he that the
Anak Agung was "not strong" on giving anything away. That
did not matter. There would be renown, an increasing good
name . . .
The Pliatan club, he went on, had bought a new kebyar com-
position from Ged6 Manik for seventy-five guilders. It was to
belong to them alone; he might not teach it to anyone else.
It was a dazzling piece, very difficult, lasting half an hour, and
with a variety of flower parts that had never been heard before.
Cede Manik came twice a week from Bulel6ng to teach them.
They had already learned the first part; the rest was undecided.
It would be composed and worked out in later rehearsals. Model/
exclaimed Lebah. Brand-new! We rehearse behind locked doors
so that no one from another village may come in and learn our
Who, for instance?
The club of Blahbatu. They will compete, but they cannot
afford so fine a teacher. They have long been jealous of Pliatan.
Indeed they will try to find some way to make us lose.
We drove up the broad new road that cut through primeval
forest over the mountains to the south shore. Monkeys leapt
across the road at our approach and ran screaming up the banks,
while through the trees that met and interlaced far above our
heads there fell a soft subaqueous light. Lebah continued his
The son of the Regent of Karangasem would soon go to
Holland to study medicine. The Anak Agung of Lukluk had
sold his beautiful gamelan to pay his cockfight debts. He was
ruined, they said. He now had a coffee-stall outside the gates of
the palace and waited in it himself . . . There had been several
missionaries in my absence, but their converts had soon returned
to Balinese religion after they left
I held the wheel while Lebah lit a cigarette. He went on with
his news. His brother had not been able to pay the taxes on
his ricefields. For a while he had worked them off by joining
the road-menders. But he was not strong, and after he had
stopped working his fields had been seized and sold at auction.
And Sampih? I asked.
He had not gone to school very long. He refused to be struck,
and had fought with his teacher. He was now rather tall, and
had begun to study baris, the warrior dance. He could be very
good, said Lebah. But he will not practice hard enough. He is
too fond of pleasure. The club is very angry.
And his other dancing?
It is not like what it was. The freshness is gone. His gestures
come too late. He dances often for tourists . . .
The forest thinned and cleared. We had reached the summit,
and a view of amazing beauty stretched far below. All at once
we came upon an unexpected sight. A most surprising bed of
zinnias sprang to view. At the angle where the road turned to
descend, the ground had been leveled as though the top of the
hill had been sliced off. Row after row of leafless plants bloomed
dimly, their colors bleached by the sun. The little park was neat
as a pin, and over the bench on which you might sit, a signboard
in Dutch stated the height of the mountain and the date of the
completion of the new road. Far below, surrounded by jungle,
gleamed the small and inaccessible lake where formerly I some-
times pitched the tent. But now the forest had been cleared at
one end, where you could see the road run past the edge of the
Do you remember the time we found the tiger's footprints by
the shore? I asked Lebah.
They've gone by now, he said. They do not like the sound of
He started the car. The road ran down the mountainside and
through the valley, to encircle now the sacred Bratan lake, once
the scene of mighty sacrifices. Beyond the temple for the divinity
of the lake the red-tiled roofs of summer cottages reflected in
the water. It had begun to rain, and I told Lebah to stop at the
resthouse where I could get a drink. It was dark when we turned
into the gateway at Sayan.
All seemed very much as before. The lamps shone brightly;
Pugig, Rantun and old Rendah stood waiting to greet me. Durus
was already helping Lebah remove the trunks from the carrier.
Later in the evening the klian and Daria the priest came in to
welcome me back and give me the news of the village. In the
morning I found that white ants had invaded the sleeping-house;
the shrines of the house temple were covered with ferns and
moss, and the garden had become a jungle. But I felt as though
I had come home once more, and in a few days it was as though
I had never left.
It was perhaps two weeks later that Lebah came in one morn-
ing with word that there was great trouble in Pliatan. The ganie-
lan club was in an uproar, for it had just been discovered that
Regog and his younger brother, two of the leading musicians,
had been teaching the new piece to the club of Blahbatu. The
secret was out; it was disaster! Regog, whom they could not
spare, would only be heavily fined. His brother had been already
expelled. But this would not make up for the fact that the
music was now common property.
But who would have thought that Regog ... I began.
The men of Blahbatu had made a vow to eat filth if they
failed to learn our new music, said Lebah. They offered Regog
What happens now?
We must practice all the harder. Fortunately, they have not
learned the music to the end. There is still some to compose.
Regog paid the fine. He also made the statement that he
would gladly pay another if he were caught teaching in Blahbatu
again. Was this a promise or a challenge? As time went on it was
discovered that Regog was often seen returning from that direc-
tion. Spies followed, but the gamelan rehearsed within the pal-
ace, and as there were watchers at the doors, Regog could never
actually be caught red-handed. There was only one thing to do.
The Pliatan men must now perform the ceremony of "eating the
curse" at the altar of the Sun God. Holy-water specifically in-
tended to "destroy the peace of the soul" of him who gave away
so much as a note from now on would be drunk by every mem-
ber, at noon, with the sun as witness.
But on the day of this solemnity, as the priest poured water
into Regog's hands he refused to drink. There were bitter words,
and the club expelled him on the spot. I looked at Regog. He
was a handsome youth, quiet and withdrawn when you met him
in the coffee-stall by the market, animated and full of ideas at
rehearsals. Once he had taken great pride in the club, and I
thought of the time when he had come with me to a gamelan
contest in Buleleng, and how he had sat for hours listening with
eager attention, in order to bring back to the club some of the
newest tunes and flower passages. But now his face had a sullen,
brooding expression I could not understand, and with a single
word, a final Good! he turned and walked out the gate of the
The great day of the contest arrived. In Gianyar the square
before the palace was so crowded that I lost Durus and Rendah
before I had been there five minutes. Banners waved; decorated
bamboos curved high in the air; the pavilion for the gamelans
was festooned with flowers. Youths swarmed greased poles for
the roast pigs at the top, while through the mob vendors made
their way with ices, balloons and trays of blacked smoked glasses,
a new fad that seemed irresistible, especially to the young men
from the mountains who wished to be in style. Lebah disap-
peared, but soon he was back, all smiles and triumph, with the
news that the men of Blahbatu had lost their nerve, it seemed,
for they would not compete. This left only two formidable rivals,
the club from Selat, which would also produce a brand-new com-
position from Buleleng, and the famous club of Den Pasar.
All through the afternoon and late into the night the sound
of gongs, drums and furious cymbals thundered and crashed in
the air as one after the other the clubs attacked their prize pieces.
It was a mighty battle of sound, and I wondered who would win,
and for what reason. Endurance, energy it seemed, would sway
the judges in the end. I thought of the savage contests of former
times, when in a pit tiger was matched against water buffalo. The
fury of such a contest was nothing to that of the competing
clubs. I looked for Durus, for I was ready to go home after an
hour. More and more the new kebyars seemed to resemble each
other, seemed intended only to dazzle and bewilder. Moments
of repose were now almost unknown, and though from time to
time there were still snatches of charming melody, before you
were aware of a tune it had disappeared, lost in the avalanche of
There was, of course, no sign of the Regent himself at this
event. Such contests did not interest him, arranged, moreover,
for the sake of rame, festive sound, and for the sake of the crowd
that stood on all four sides of the pavilion, watching but hardly
Late that night Lebah appeared at the house. He was com-
pletely happy. Pliatan had won. The judges had said so; the talk
among the crowd later coincided. Selat had played longer, and
perhaps with more fire, but the effects and flowers of Pliatan
were considered more novel. In spite of the loss of Regog they
were still the leading club of the south.
THE GAMELAN OF SEMARA
I WAS glad when all this excitement was over and Lebah could
return to Sayan. At last I could settle down to my own work.
I was eager to begin a study of the older music on the island,
the ceremonial music of the temple and palace which now
seemed to be on the verge of disappearing overnight.
For days Lebah and I had discussed a plan I had had in mind
even before I left for America, which was to form a club in
Sayan for the sole purpose of reviving the charming music of
the Gamelan of Semara the Love God. This music was now
rarest of all on the island, for its elegance and subtlety had no
place in the village, and the palace gamelans had nearly all dis-
banded. It is true that the gamelan in the court of Gianyar still
played from time to time, but I preferred to keep clear of obliga-
tions to the Anak Agung. There was the gamelan of the Regent
of Karangasem, but that was too far away. There was also the
gamelan that belonged to the Brahman priest in Den Pasar, Ida
Bagus Anom. Here I sometimes spent a late afternoon listening
to the musicians and exhausting Ida Bagus with my questions,
for he could not see why I was not content to sit and listen to
the music as he did, relaxed and meditative, delighting in the
tranquil sound, instead of disturbing the musicians during a
pause to ask them endless unanswerable questions.
But even the lovely-sounding gamelan of the priest, with its
unusual scale of seven tones and its music that modulated unac-
countably into other keys, was on the verge of disintegration. The
men were old; their memory failed. Already the young son of Ida
Bagus was talking impatiently of recasting the gongs and metal
keys, to form a kebyar gamelan.
But there is a kebyar club just down the road, I said.
But none in our banjar, he answered.
I had no idea of bringing about a belated renaissance in Sayan,
for I did not expect much enthusiasm over my plan among the
young men of the village. But for me there would be both pleas-
ure and profit, for I was tired of going about the island with a
notebook, asking questions like a government official. By forming
a club not only would I have music near the house once more,
but I could learn the forgotten court style of playing in the most
natural way possible, by hearing it pass from teacher to pupils.
I thought that the men of Sayan would rather have a new game-
lan no matter what they were called upon to learn than not,
and when, after a long discussion at the house, the boys and men
whom Lebah had called together said they would be willing to
play in the old style if I found them the gamelan, I put my
heart and soul into bringing this about.
It was Lebah who suggested I borrow the set of instruments
now used by the legong club of Tegas, but which actually be-
longed to Agung Mandra in Pliatan. Elegantly carved with
phoenix birds, lacquered and gilt, with keys that gave the sweet-
est of sounds (for the bronze was old and contained silver),
these instruments had once been part of the spoil of war between
Pliatan and the land of Nagara to the south, taken from the
palace of the defeated rajah before Agung Mandra was born.
He had loaned them to Tegas some ten years ago, where they
The arrival of this splendid gamelan in Sayan caused much
excitement among the members of the club. That night they
gathered on the veranda to try the instruments and decide how
they would organize. Only the older men had any experience.
Some belonged to the old gamelan which played in the temple;
others came from the legong club of the Chokorda. They would
do, said Lebah, for the main body of the orchestra. But for the
flower parts we would need players whose minds were more
alert, whose hands and fingers could move more quickly, and
we now chose a dozen boys who, it is true, had never struck a
note in their lives, but seemed very eager to belong to the club.
Lebah had been elected leader of the club as a matter of
course, and the next night he began to train them on a simple
piece. He started from the very beginning, teaching first the
melody, and then beginning on the ornamental flowers. At first
it went rather slowly, but in a couple of weeks wrists began to
grow flexible, and the boys were learning to control their ham-
mers. Soon the music began to flow, become alive, and Lebah
started on another piece.
But as yet I had not succeeded in finding a teacher who re-
membered the ancient court music I was so anxious to have the
club begin learning, and it was Chokorda Rahi who at last
thought of I Lunyuh, an old man from the palace of Payangan,
ten miles up the road to the mountains. He had been a musician
of the court in the time of the old prince, when there was still
the famous Gamelan of Semara, and he still played the drum
when the ceremonial gamelan of Payangan was taken to the tem-
ple. His memory was phenomenal, said the Chokorda; he was a
storehouse of melodies and music now long since forgotten. His
style of playing the trompong, the row of melodious little gongs,
was in the finest tradition.
When Lebah first rode up to Payangan on his bicycle to see
Lunyuh he returned with the news that the old man refused to
stir. For no reason, apparently, than that he did not wish to.
What is he like? I asked.
A hermit! An old bachelor! Like a very old turtle! He will
hardly say a word . . .
But Lebah returned again with Chokorda Rahi, and in the
end they succeeded in persuading him to come to Sayan in a
month's time, after the new instruments which I had ordered
to add to the gamelan would be finished.
For although the twenty-odd instruments were complete
enough for legong, there was no trompong, on which to play
the melodies, and in this orchestra of the court the trompong
was like the piano in a concerto, with the soloist doing all sorts
of elegant flourishes as he performed. I also wished to add more
gangsas to my orchestra, enlarging the group of flower instru-
ments so that the music would have a still more shimmering and
luminous sound. I needed new drums, and also a set of cymbals
in the antique style, small and thin, with a delicate clash. As I
talked this over with the boys and men of the club their enthu-
siasm began to rise.
We are a club of thirty, I said. We are going to learn the
old music. Let us do it in the best of style. We will make this
gamelan larger and even better than the one in the palace of the
Regent at Gianyar. And later, I will call Lotring from Kuta, to
compose new music, which will belong to you alone . . .
The gongs and metal keys for the gangsas were being forged
in one of the distant mountain villages to the east, long famed
for their tuners who carefully preserved old sets of metal keys,
precious relics of the past to which they constantly referred
when setting the pitch of the gongs they made today. These
metalsmiths formed a guild of their own, were a proud caste by
themselves, outside the Hindu caste system, a caste that was
ancient and especially respected, with a right to the highest death
ceremonies. A smith, said Lebah (he was of the smith caste him-
self), had a right to as many roofs to his cremation tower as a
There was something dark and secret about their ancient craft,
for they had to do with metal, cold mysterious product of the
underworld, charged with magic power. For centuries they man-
ufactured from the same substance the instruments of both
music and death, the resonant gongs, the spears and thin-edged
krises. In their craft the elements of life and death were strangely
united. For a gong when struck can (or once could) dispel the
demons, bring rain, wind; or give, when bathed in, health and
strength. And music, which is the most ecstatic voice of life, rang
from the bronze keys even as they were hammered out in the
forges, over fires that had burned from time immemorial.
How shall these gongs be tuned? asked Nang Mudi the smith,
when I went to see him. With a deep voice, in the tuning called
Brave Sea? Or shall I tune them shriller, in the pitch called
What is best for a Gamelan of Semara the Love God? asked
A Field of Flowering Pandanus, said the smith after a mo-
ment's thought. That is the softest, the most perfumed . . .
But I had in mind the rare and beautiful tuning I had some-
times heard down by the sea near Sanur. The actual change in
the five tones was not great. Only a single tone the second-
had been altered in relation to the others. It had been raised,
made sharp, and that was all. But this was enough to impart to
the music a strange and subtle poignancy, a sweetly melancholy
inflection quite impossible to describe. I had already heard this
haunting scale at the Javanese court in Bandung. It was the scale
of midnight, the scale in which singers sang before changing to
the mode they would use till dawn. I had also heard it in Japan,
in ancient flute melodies, and at the puppet theater of Osaka.
To find it echo here in Bali was a discovery, and to have my own
gamelan tuned in this way would give the music, I thought, the
final touch of antiquity and unreality. I returned to Nang Mudi
a week later with a set of keys I had borrowed from Sanur, and
You have only to follow these in tuning the gongs. Then,
#hen they are made, you can bring them to Sayan and tune the
rest of my instruments to match.
He agreed rather doubtfully. But he admitted the keys gave a
remarkably sweet sound. Like nothing he had heard before, he
added. He wrapped the keys in a piece of cloth and put them
Some two weeks after this he arrived in Sayan one morning,
to spend three days retuning the gamelan. At last he announced
he was through. He gathered up his files, and after bidding me
good day, got in the car for Lebah to drive him down the road
to the place where he could get the bus for Karangasem.
That night, as I listened to the gamelan in all its fullness, and
with its new tuning, it seemed to me the most beautiful sound
I had ever heard on the island. I had invited Agung Mandra to
come from Pliatan to hear what I had done with his instruments,
and as we sat listening, together with Chokorda Rahi, who had
been drawn, he said from the other end of the village by the
new sounds, we all agreed that the gamelan was like nothing
heard before. I could hardly wait for Lunyuh to arrive, when
the club would at last begin to learn the music I was so eager
THE month had more than passed, but still Lunyuh did not
appear. We waited a week longer, and then Lebah went to
Payangan once more to see him.
He says he is coming, reported Lebah. But he doesn't wish to
be hurried . . .
Finally one morning he arrived.
Old, pock-marked, sturdy and moving with great deliberation,
he seemed indeed a dusty tortoise as he approached the veranda
to rest after his ten-mile walk. At first he would hardly utter a
word (he was rather deaf, and we had to shout) and he sat there
in somewhat forbidding dignity, very sure of himself. Lebah ad-
dressed him politely as guru, teacher, from the very beginning,
but even this did not seem to soften him. He wore a faded sarong
that was surely as ancient as himself, and he smelled rather like
a dried fish. He had asked for a little arac to revive him after his
walk, and he tossed down a couple of glasses with the sudden
quickness of a lizard that has seen a fly. Slowly he began to thaw.
We spent the morning talking, while Lebah and I explained my
reasons for calling him to Sayan.
Did he remember? I asked. The old music of the Gamelan of
Semara? Lasem, Seduk Maru, The Sea of Honey, The Fire of
Beh! It's a long time . . .
He gave a dry chuckle. He took a leaf of sirih from his wallet,
folded it and put it in his mouth.
Yes! He thought he remembered. We would see ...
That night, after the club had gathered, the guru sat down
before the trompong to try out the little gongs. He picked up
the long sticks and tapped lightly on the knobs. Dreamily he
began to improvise, rather stiffly at first and then with more
fluidity. Soon his improvisation had taken the form of the love-
music from the story of king Lasem. This the club already knew;
there was a signal from Lebah, and the others joined in.
I listened in utter pleasure. The guru's melody was the miss-
ing thread in the weaving, the thread of gold in the design.
Above the other instruments the trompong rang out like a chime
of bells, penetrating and heavy with nostalgic echoes. The guru
had begun very simply, but soon his playing began to take on
life. Little flourishes and grace notes appeared; he began to go
his own way, to play off the beat. Suddenly he had broken into
the most surprising and alert syncopation. The music had be-
come almost a dance, a dance that was light, agile, filled with
sensuous grace. Yet he sat there, a stolid figure of apathy to the
outside world, never moving, except to reach out for the farthest
The music came to an end. There was a silence. He finally
Like that, he said. That is how the music was played in the
palace . . .
It is very beautiful, I said.
Beautiful, I shouted.
Ah, he answered. He looked for his purse of betel leaves and
took one out.
Each week he spent three days in Sayan teaching. He directed
his attention entirely on Lebah, who was to play the trompong,
and on the drums, for the drumming to this formal music was
intricate. He refused to consider the flowers. Let Lebah work
them out the way he wanted. In his time they were very simple.
They had only to follow the melody. But now . . . Words failed
It was decided to keep the flowers simple and plain for the
guru's music. But this was far too unexciting for the club, and
on the nights when Lunyuh was away they would practice other
music which was more difficult, more involved, something they
could really attack and master. One night I heard a new and
charming melody begin, then stop, begin again, repeat, gaining
in assurance. Little by little the gangsas joined in, and then the
cymbals. There was a pause. The melody began once more.
What was the new music I heard the club practicing last
night? I asked Lebah the next morning.
He looked a little confused. It was nothing. It was merely a
tune he had thought of. He thought he might try to make a
piece. But he did not pretend to know how to compose . . .
That night he added a new section. In a few days the piece
was quite complete. It was only a brief interlude that lasted a
few minutes, but I never seemed to tire of hearing it.
As the weeks passed, old Lunyuh began to feel very much at
home, and our acquaintance slowly developed into an austere
and pedantic friendship. I soon discovered that he remembered
far more music than he would ever teach the club. As he sat on
the veranda sipping arac, and playing as I wrote, one piece sug-
gested another. He was extremely proud of his memory.
You'd never find another like me, he said, to give you all this
music. Not in Badung, Gianyar or Bangli . . .
I had known him six months before I learned that he had
taught many of the ceremonial gamelans in the villages near by
the music to be played at feasts and temple anniversaries.
Where did you learn all this music? I asked.
At the court, he answered. From the old guru who had come
from the court of Bangli. He had written down the pokok, the
main tones, and kept them all these years.
I recognized it as a true mark of his favor when one day Lun-
yuh came in and handed me a palm-leaf book, saying,
Here are the tones to the old pieces, which I have written
down for you. He read some of the titles. Madura; Dawn; The
Sea; Falling Rock . . . There were fifty pieces, in all the different
meters, from the Beat of One to the Beat of Eight.
But do not lend this to the people of Bangli if they ask for it,
he said. Or Sulaan . . .
Why not? I shouted.
He smiled craftily. They have not got music like this . . . But
if Lebah wishes to teach them in Pliatan, let him have them.
Sometimes, when I went to Payangan, I would find him at a
temple feast, seated before the trompong of the gamelan, lost in
the music. For me his long preludes, which prepared the musi-
cians for the music which was to follow, were extremely beautiful.
The melody seemed to be summoned out of nowhere, recalled
from the subconscious, to grow tangible, definite, and be finally
passed on to the musicians who waited. He would begin slowly,
tentatively, improvising according to his fancy. But gradually
two or three tones would become fixed; the germ of a melody
came to life, expanded, became recognizable at last as the closing
phrase of Lasem or Full Moonlight. The drummers picked up
their sticks; gave a signal-accent; and as the guru reached the
final note of his prelude the music suddenly began with a crash,
to move slowly at first, gradually become animated and gather
momentum until, a half hour later, it ended in a thunder of
Guru, I asked. As you sit there, waiting to begin, have you any
idea what music will come next?
He couldn't say. He thought. Sometimes, perhaps. But often
the melody came to him only after he had already started play-
THE CHILDREN'S MUSIC ASSOCIATION
THE first rehearsals of the club had attracted the small boys of
Sayan as honey draws ants. They sat around watching the older
boys in envy and begging to be allowed to try the gangsas for a
little while. At odd times of the day, when there was no one
about, I began to hear sounds of drumming and the faint ring
of a g'nder or gangsa coming from the pavilion where the instru-
ments were kept. The imitation was surprisingly good; the group
grew larger every day. Rather noisy cupids for the God of Love,
I thought as I passed by, pretending not to notice them. I recog-
nized the leader as Kayun, a serious child of seven, who now
came often to the house and polished spoons for Durus with an
air of great responsibility. Already he was imitating Lebah's mo-
tions and turn of the head as he sat at the g'nder, leading the
others on. But soon I had to put a stop to these meetings, for
the parchment of the drum "got" split, no one knew how; ham-
mers broke, a cymbal disappeared. The gamelan was now forbid-
den, and after a while the children stopped coming to rehearsals.
It was the time of the galungan holidays, when already for
two days strolling barongs had passed through the village; lions,
tigers and boars traveled down the road with their musicians, to
stop and perform at the marketplace before going on to the
next village. All at once I heard sounds of strange and lively
music, uncertain drums, melody very out-of-tune, and the pathetic
accents of a cracked gong. What procession, I wondered, had
now stopped by the gates.
Rendah, who was working in the garden, looked up and
laughed. It was the new players' club of Sayan, formed by the
"small men" only. Did I wish to call them in?
Outside the gate I found a troupe of exceedingly juvenile but
dignified actors and musicians surrounded by a ring of even more
juvenile and serious spectators. The players were about to make
Kayun directed with the drum, Kantin, his friend, held the
gong. There were also a gangsa and cymbals. The club had made
its own barong out of straw; ifestood there snapping, impatiently
waiting for the actors to tie on their masks. There was a brief
but spirited prelude from the musicians and the play began. It
was the story of boastful Chupak and his gentle little brother
Grantang. Chupak rescues the princess, carried off by the demon,
but it is Grantang who kills the demon (enacted by the barong) .
Chupak pushes Grantang down a well and carries the princess
back to the palace. Grantang kills the demon of the well and
climbs out on a ladder he builds of his bones. He arrives in time
to marry the princess. Chupak is thrown out in disgrace.
When played in the usual tempo, this drama lasted till dawn.
The children had reduced the plot to its essence. We were given
only the high spots of the play. Poor Grantang! Dreadful Chu-
pak! The coquettish saleswoman and the lustful fanner. They
performed the ribald moments with gusto. When suddenly an
actor was overcome with shyness or forgot his lines, Kayun or
some other boy called out, Go on! What ails you! Ach, you're
simply rotten . . .
Suddenly the play was over. It had lasted ten minutes. I gave
the necessary engagement feirof thirty k6pengs. Delighted with
their first success they continued down the road, followed by
their audience, to play at intervals until they reached the edge
of the banjar. Beyond that they would not think of stepping.
Knowing the Balinese temper, the sudden enthusiasms and as
quick reactions, I was not surprised to learn soon afterwards that
the club had disbanded. They were, said Kayun, using a word
I heard a hundred times a day, med bored, fed-up and through.
Kayun and Kantin were in and out of the house all day long.
They would sit for a little while and hammer away at one instru-
ment or another lying about the veranda. They discovered that
certain tunes could be played on the black keys of the piano, and
improvised brief but astonishing duets. One day, when I hap-
pened to be visiting Nang Mudi the smith, he showed me a set
of little four-note g'nders and gongs he had made for an angklung
gamelan. It had been ordered, but never called for, and now the
instruments stood gathering dust. They were so charming, so
sweet-toned, so miniature in size, I could not resist buying them,
for I thought I might take them J?ack to America. I piled them
into the car and brought them home, and when Kayun and
Kantin saw them they were in raptures. They placed them in a
pavilion near the kitchen; soon several children, hearing the
news, had wandered in to try the gongs, the little g'nd6rs, the
tiny cymbals. The garden rang with music every morning.
One afternoon I said to Kayun, Call the members of the Chu-
pak club to the house, for I have something to tell them. That
evening fifteen small boys sat along the edge of the veranda, while
I told them that if they wanted, I would give the new instru-
ments I had brought home to them. We would form a club of
small men, and I would call a teacher. Kayun would be leader;
Kreteg, who had gone to school, could be treasurer. What did
A gamelan! A real gamelan of their own! They talked excit-
edly. Yes, they would learn! No, they would not grow tired!
They would practice every night. Only give them a teacher! I
told them they could take the gamelan to Kayun's house where
they could try it out. Carefully they picked up the instruments
and carried them off with shouts of joy. That evening I heard
sounds of wild and confused music in the distance. This went
on for a week. The club is too happy, said Kayun. When will
you call a teacher?
I said to wait till I came back, for I was going to Java for ten
days. It was actually a month before I returned to Sayan, for
I spent a week visiting Goris in Bulel6ng, going to the "night
fair" each evening to hear the newest kebyar music and see the
I came home to find the club had learned three pieces. It
seemed they could not wait for my return, and had found a
teacher for themselves, the father of a friend from a near-by
village. That night they brought their instruments and set them
in careful order on the veranda. After a little quarreling over the
distribution of hammers there was a silence. They gravely caught
each other's eye. An invisible signal was given and suddenly they
began. I recognized Prancing Horse, an intricate composition of
considerable length. It was quite admirable. Once or twice the
rhythm faltered, and the drummer got out of time, but with com-
plete assurance the children swept through the piece, to bring
it to a nicely retarded end. They rested, began again. This time
it was a short piece Monkey Looks at Himself in the Water.
After this came Golden Dragonfly.
Lebah produced cigarettes. Durus brought out bottles of
Orange Crush. I complimented them and said it was indeed time
for a teacher,
Kayun, representing the club, piped up. The club demands a
good teacher, one who knows the new music. We do not wish
to learn in the old style, with an old guru, like the men in your
Gamelan of Love. Such music is out of date. It is too slow; too
He is right, echoed the others. Give us a younger teacher! At
this point Lebah and Durus could not keep from laughing, while
I promised to call I Nengah, from Selat.
I had known him casually for a long time, for I often used to
spend days in Selat in the house of Gusti Ged6 Oka, the head
of the kebyar club. Nengah was perhaps forty, shy and gentle,
but filled with an unsuspected energy when he sat with a drum.
He was the head of the village angklung orchestra which played
only for rituals, but played in the modern Bulel&ig style. Since
this was what the children wanted, and because Nengah seemed
to me a man of unusual sympathy and originality, I went to see
him, to ask him if he would come to Sayan.
I had to plead with him for an hour before he could make up
his mind to come.
It is far, he said, and I have never been to Java.
I explained that it was still in Bali, only fifty miles away, and
that he had not to cross water, but he shook his head. Java was
the great outside world, the unknown; even the offer of money
failed to interest him. It was only when I said I would ask Gusti
Cede Oka to come along with him, to stay a day or so in Sayan,
that he finally consented. To follow his prince into a strange land
seemed not too hazardous. For a day or so he was ill-at-ease in
my house, and when Gusti Ged6 left he at first insisted he must
leave too. But Lebah prevailed on him to stay; soon his shyness
vanished, and he became a great favorite with the children.
The first rehearsal took place after sundown on the veranda,
after the children had returned from the fields. Lebah, the guru,
Gusti Ged6 and I sat looking on as the lesson began.
Nengah's method was strange. He said nothing to the chil-
dren, but began to play through the melody, gazing out into the
dusk. He played it again. He then played the first phrase and told
the children to begin. Kayun and Kantin commenced, following
him and watching every moment of his hands. A third child now
joined in, and then others. Seriously, patiently, they went from
phrase to phrase, while Nengah said nothing at all and continued
to stare into space. Bit by bit the children gained assurance.
Phrase was added to phrase, until with a shout of delighted
surprise they found they were able to play the long and winding
melody from beginning to end. But it was now late. They were
suddenly tired; in the back rows giggling and pinching had be-
gun. I said it was time to stop, and the rehearsal was declared
A few nights later, when the melody had "entered/ 7 Nengah
began to teach the flowers. Night after night the children prac-
ticed, industriously, with utter concentration. They refused to be
baffled by the intricate rhythms. Alas for the cymbal player if he
got out of time, or if the big gong came in late. Nengah said
nothing, but the children shouted in exasperation.
Dog and Bedil are too slow! They keep forgetting! reported
Kayun one night. We must find new men.
But everyone in the banjar already belongs, I said.
He thought, frowning. There are small sons of Rendah, he
What about Kinigan, his nephew?
Ach, Kinigan ... He always makes trouble. He won't play.
That evening Ada, aged six, and Dapat, five, took their place
in the front row of g'nders. They had come without their clothes,
and the club insisted they first go home for their sarongs. They
are quick, announced Kayun a few days later. We will keep
them. Dog and Bedil can remain in the club, but only to help
carry the gamelan.
Old Lunyuh would watch these lessons when he came to the
house in blank wonder. A club of small men was quite unheard-
of. As for Nengah, he was delighted. Sharp as needles! he ex-
claimed. Quick as fieldmice! They keep asking for new pieces.
Soon they will be able to play at the temple.
Are you happy here?
He smiled. I like to teach them, he said.
A hut was built for the children in one corner of the garden
where they could rehearse by themselves and store their instru-
ments. This was their own private clubhouse, and they came and
went as they pleased. In a tree they hung their own kulkul or
signal drum to call the club together. The members now num-
When I met the children on the road as I walked through the
village they were shy and gentle; unobserved they raced about
full of malice and mischief. Like children everywhere, they
scrawled on walls the latest and far from innocent news of some
uncovered romance, and filled them with drawings of demons,
shadowplay heroes and the universal diagrams of sex. They knew
a thousand rhymes on the subject of the symptoms of desire and
the phenomena of gratification. At one time I collected these at
a penny apiece. Nengah laughed. I used to sing them too when
I was small. He thought, began,
Bananas from Mas, mangoes from Bengil;
Jostled she yells but laid she keeps still.
Here Kayun and Kantin, who had been listening, capped the
verse with a second which I found even more astonishing.
One evening the klian and Daria the priest came in to see me.
After the usual preliminaries the object of their visit was re-
vealed. Did I think the children ready, would I allow them to
play at the feast in the Temple of Ancestors, which would take
place at next full moon? Nengah thought it possible. Night after
night rehearsals went on. The club practiced with a new deter-
mination, knowing they would soon make so important an
appearance, and fines for lateness were raised from one to two
k6p6ngs. As I sat on the veranda of the sleeping-house at the
other end of the garden reading, or playing dominoes with some
visitor who had come from far off to tell me of a feast, the music
rang out in the night, a joyful counterpoint above the graver,
sweeter music of the other gamelan rehearsing out by the gates.
I loved the confusion of sounds which sometimes jangled in dis-
sonance, or merged every now and then to form surprising har-
monies. At last the music would stop; voices and laughing died
away as the children walked out to the gate. Soon the other
gamelan stopped playing, and now there was no sound at all,
except the faint roar of the river, or the hum of a deep gong far
up the valley.
It is the day of the temple feast, and the children have gathered
at the house to carry their instruments to the temple. I give them
each a square of large black-and-white check cloth for a head-
dress, which will mark them as a club. They look for red hibiscus
in the hedge and put them above their ears. They look very
spruced up, and at the temple their appearance creates much
excitement. The club of older boys has already arrived, and the
two gamelans are set in opposite pavilions. The ceremony of
blessing the instruments is gone through, and the priest tells the
children to begin.
EnggdhJ Tabuhin! he says. All right; strike up.
People crowd eagerly around; he asks them politely to stand
back. It is the children's hour; they dominate the scene. The
women pause in arranging the offerings, the older club looks on
from the other pavilion, commenting in friendly irony. Kayun
lifts his hammer, looks sternly about. Are they ready? He brings
it down in a flash and the music has begun. It is Prancing Horse,
their showpiece. All listen in silence, smiling with pleasure and
amused admiration. For once, the Balinese seem almost senti-
mental. But soon the music has ended, and the rituals must
proceed. It is now time to go in procession to a distant sacred
spring to bathe the gods. The children pick up their instruments,
hook them to the poles for carrying them as though they had
been doing so all their lives. There is much shouting in getting
started, but at last they go out the great gate, followed by the
women with the god-figures on their heads. The larger gamelan
follows in the rear. Now the women have started to chant; the
children begin on Incense Smoke; from the rear is heard the
thunder of drums and heavy gongs in the stately Beat of Three.
I see them go across the fields, with gilded parasols and waving
banners, until they are lost from sight as they descend into a
It is dark when they return to the temple to the sound of
firecrackers. The next morning I am told by Lebah and Durus
that the children, drunk with success, could not leave off playing,
but went through their program several times, off and on, till
dawn put an end to the first day's ceremony and they suddenly
found they were very sleepy indeed.
THE LIGHTS IN THE VALLEY
ONE night as Lebah, the guru and I were returning from Bule-
leng, we came to a village in the mountains bright with lamps.
Before the temple an arja play was in progress, and we stopped
to watch for a while. The clown attendants of the Prime Minis-
ter of Koripan were on the stage, and the crowd kept shouting
at their lines in high delight.
Serog and Kakul, said Lebah. They are very funny. They are
telling about the month when they were Christians.
They had been converted last year, but after a month of noth-
ing but trouble they had taken up their own religion again, after
the missionary had left. I could not understand their jokes, but
I imagined they were variations on a familiar tale.
X had been converted because he had been promised his
syphilis would be promptly cured. Y had been convinced that
it was cheaper to be a Christian, with no continual offerings to
make, or expensive cremation to save for. Z had been quite terri-
fied by the missionary's picture of Satan. But once they had be-
come Christians, all happiness seemed to have fled. They became
quarrelsome and superior. They were no longer co-operative in
the village, and since they would not pay the village or temple
dues, they were left alone with their harvests. The village would
not allow their dead to be buried in the graveyard. Yet, although
they were now Christian, they were refused the little cemetery
of the Christian Dutch. They felt bewildered and lost. The com-
pensation was too vague, and life had become cold and empty.
One by one they returned to their former faith, were purified by
the priest, and took up once more their daily lives.
Why does he look so unfriendly? asked Lebah as we passed
the Protestant missionary from Canada one day in Den Pasar.
He does not look happy at all ...
It was certainly not compassion that one read in his joyless
face. As he looked on unmoved at performances there was some-
thing sinister in his cold and provincial disapproval. All this must
end, he said as he called on Goris at his office in Buleleng. This
music and dancingit is the work of evil. At present he was on
the island to make a survey. But he would return, he said, when
the controversy over conversion on the island had been settled
once and for all. It looked now as though this might be very
One day Houbold, the impetuous little Dutch journalist who
sent an acid column from time to time to the papers in Java, was
riding on a bus that ran across the mountains, when he noticed
several large packages addressed to the missionary. Some premo-
nition caused him to tear open a corner; the packages were filled
with Bibles! Had the torn wrapping revealed a nest of serpents
Houbold could not have been more startled, and he could hardly
wait for the bus to reach Bulel&ig. He went straight to the house
of Goris the archaeologist, and the two drove at once to call on
the Resident The missionary had been put on his honor to re-
main purely an observer, and this was the result! Houbold's voice
shook with anger. What happened to the Bibles I never found
out, but the missionary left soon after.
A few months later I received a letter from America with a
clipping from a Canadian paper that began with a headline.
BALINESE LAYING DOWN
The people of the little island
of Bali are rapidly turning to Chris-
tianity and throwing away their
idols, reports Mr. . . .
Why should I change my religion? asked Agung Mandra one
evening as we sat talking together in Pliatan. Why should I want
to change my way of life?
In the dusk a woman appeared in the doorway to the inner
palace, bearing a tray of offerings. She walked slowly across the
courtyard and disappeared through the gate to the palace temple.
From somewhere near by there came the sound of a flute. Agung
Mandra rose and lit the lamp.
But if I did, he continued, I should not like to become a Chris-
What would you do?
I should become a Moslem, he said.
For the past month I had been engaged in writing arrange-
ments for two pianos of some of the music I had gotten from
Lunyuh, Lebah and even the children. I had already given a lit-
tle concert and performed a number of these with Walter, who
played the piano very well, on board one of the ships from Java.
There had been a "Bali Conference," a visit of Dutch archaeolo-
gists, officials and Javanese princes to the island, and two pianos
had been sent especially for the event. I was now asked to repeat
it in the little Harmony Club at Den Pasar, and this time I in-
vited the Regents and a few musicians to come and hear what
their music sounded like when arranged in this way. They were
quite delighted They had not believed it possible. The percus-
sive sound of the pianos was at times surprisingly close to the
sound of the gamelan, and they wondered how only two musi-
cians were able to play all the different parts, the melody, the
flowers, the basic tones, the gongs. Only the drums were missing!
When it was over the Regent of Tabanan made a quite charming
little speech of compliments, in which he lamented only that
the tuning of the piano did not always match.
Lotring was now often at the house. He would come up on
the bus to stay for a week at a time, teaching the older club the
music he had once composed for the disbanded club of Kuta.
But this was old music by now, and he had decided they must
learn something new. He now evolved some complicated pieces
based on the music from the shadowplay, working out new sec-
tions each night as the men rehearsed. I could not understand
how his mind worked. The pieces seemed to grow by themselves,
imperceptibly, until suddenly, at the end of a couple of weeks,
there was a brand-new composition, unwritten, yet firmly fixed
in the memory of the men. His music was very much alive; his
flower-patterns like those of no one else on the island, and al-
though his melodies were derived from earlier ones they were
always a surprise, continually unfolding into something new.
The club now played with a perfection, a joyous impulse that
seemed impossible, to believe from so simple a village as Sayan.
In the past year I had called musicians from widely scattered
villages to teach the players a boy from Sanur for some unusual
flowers, an old man from Tabanan for forgotten 16gong melodies,
and even Nyoman Kaler, who came to the house importantly,
and at the same time innocently pleased that our friendship had
been renewed. All this the club accepted with enthusiasm. The
whole thing had become an adventure. They prided themselves
on the number of pieces they knew, and never seemed to tire
As I listened in the night to this music that by now had grown
so familiar, its laws, its form, its design seemed clear at last.
Through scraps of conversations, notes, expeditions and discov-
eries I had gradually put the puzzle together. The mystery was
solved. Or was it? I had come into possession of a new set of
rules and principles, but as I thought of the delicate, nervous
drumming of Lebah or the radiant compositions of Lotring, the
essence of music, its nature, meaning, seemed elusive and inde-
finable as ever.
In the past year my one great wish was to have this music on
records as well as transcribed on paper, and I was now in corre-
spondence with a young musicologist in Java. He had been mak-
ing recordings among the islands, and we agreed that if I would
supply the disks he would bring his machine to Bali. I planned to
make as many records as possible, especially of the old ceremonial
gamelans in the mountains, and I now went about with Lebah
from village to village discussing with the musicians the best
pieces to include in this program. The days passed, and I waited
impatiently for my visitor to come, for I was very eager to begin.
It was the month of August when he arrived, and although
the rainy season was not till December, mist and mountain driz-
zle had enveloped Sayan for a week in a fog that showed no
signs of lifting. Alas for my plans! From the beginning the ma-
chine unaccountably refused to run satisfactorily. I managed to
get a few records of the children. They listened to themselves en-
tranced as I played the first one back. But with the third record
the machine began to run more slowly. It stopped dead for a day.
Ran perfectly once more. Stopped again.
Was it the damp? The batteries? My visitor could not say.
The sun came out, but still the machine was unpredictable. For
a week we struggled with it without leaving the house, and I
soon saw my plans for recording in the mountains fade. At last
it was decided to take the machine to Java for repairs. We would
resume work in a month.
It was about this time, shortly after I learned at the hotel in
Den Pasar of the Munich crisis, that I received one morning an
enigmatic visit from Sagami, the Japanese photographer in town.
I was surprised, for I knew him only slightly, rarely having gone
into his shop. He bowed politely, saying he had a friend with
him from Java. He was showing him the island, and would I
allow him to see my house, which was famous for its fine loca-
tion? Sagamiwas full of smiles and self-effacement, but I thought
his friend seemed to be counting even the coconuts in the trees
around the house. I asked them if they would not have some tea,
but no they could not stay. They barely looked at the house,
and walked quickly to the edge of the cliff to gaze intently up
and down the great valley. Out came the camera of Sagami's
friend. There was a rapid click-click as he turned in all directions,
and they came back to the veranda, complimenting me on the
view. I asked them to sit down, but thanking me elaborately,
they bowed themselves down the steps and walked out to the
They -say Japan will make more war, said old Rendah. With
whom? Who will win?
Where did you hear that? I asked.
Lebah was speaking of it to Pugig.
It's not yet clear, I said. It's not yet certain . . .
The end of September came, and I had a brief letter from Java,
saying my friend had been delayed but would return in a few
weeks. And then a letter followed in October. He had fallen ill
It was too late to do anything further, I realized with bitter dis-
appointment. I had no money now for a more elaborate venture,
the kind which I should have planned from the beginning. I was
already thinking of departure. My work was finished. I had col-
lected more material than I could ever use for the book which I
now had in mind about the music of the island. The news from
Europe made it clear that I must sooner or later make some deci-
sion, and already I was restless and unhappy. There seemed no
point of prolonging this for the sake of a project that I now had
so little confidence in; I wrote to Java for sailing lists, and finally
chose a Dutch freighter that left Batavia on Christmas day, to
sail around the Cape of Good Hope and reach New York by
Halifax. The morning came at last when I forced myself to tell
Durus and Lebah to take the trunks out and air them in the
sun. Slowly, reluctantly, I began the disheartening business of
The last weeks were spent in winding up affairs. The piano
and the car were sold, the house placed in the hands of an agent
The older gamelan club was disbanded after an unhappy meet-
ing, for the instruments must return to Pliatan.
As for the children's club, I could not decide what to do. If I
gave them the instruments would they continue to use them,
I wondered, or even keep them? One day I called the klian and
Daria the priest, and appointed them guardians of the instru-
ments, saying they might never be taken from the children, or
sold. Or placed in the pawnshop, I added. I wrote on a sheet
of paper, This gamelan I have given to the children of banjar
Kutuh, December 2, 1938, and signed it. Slowly, carefully the
priest and old Rendah added their signatures as witnesses. When
they had finished, the klian folded the paper and put it in his
wallet. I will keep it until tuan returns, he said.
That night I told the children they must continue to practice,
so that the village of Sayan would not lose its good name, and
the gods would remain pleased at their temple feasts. Try to
remember, I said, the gods feel dishonored if the music is not
Engg6h! Engg6h! they called. Miring tuan; we follow, tuan!
And do not leave your drums in the sun, I added. Try to keep
your instruments in tune . . .
They gathered them up and carried them away, to keep in the
house of Kayun.
That night I awoke very suddenly, as though someone had
called me, to find a bright light burning in the doorway of the
bedroom. I spoke, but there was no answer, and as I reached for
my flashlight under my pillow the light went out. It had been
raining, and outside the grass was wet. But on the floor of the
veranda there was no sign of a footprint
It had happened so quickly, so silently that I thought I had
been dreaming. I did not go to sleep again, for it was almost
dawn, and already the cocks up and down the valley had begun
to crow. When Durus came onto the veranda with my coffee
I told him what I had seen. Or dreamed, perhaps, I added.
It was no dream, it seemed. The land was alive with leyaks
once more. They had been seen several times in the past month
by Lebah, Durus and even Rendah. In the graveyard, and in the
trees, balls of fire glowed for a while and disappeared. An epi-
demic of fever had already broken out in the villages; there was
illness in many homes.
But how is it I never see these lights? I asked. Not until last
night have I ever seen anything unusual . . .
They all agreed I had been lucky, for it was surely a sign of
misfortune. But now, said Durus, once one has dared to come
so near, you will surely see more.
It was perhaps a week later that I awoke again, late in the
night, with the same strange feeling that someone had called.
It was an unusually warm night, and I went outside onto the
veranda. I could not believe my eyes.
Across the valley, halfway down the hillside, a row of lights
glowed with a soft pure brilliance. They seemed to move ever
so slightly, floating up and down as though anchored. Suddenly
they went out, as suddenly went on again, but now to shine in a
perpendicular line, one above the other. They merged slowly,
until only the central one remained, which now began to float
slowly up the valley. All at once it vanished. But within a minute
the lights were shining in a row once more, far to the north.
I went to rouse Durus and Sampih, who were sleeping in the
next room. Look! I said. What lights can they possibly be? They
are too pale for lamps, and besides, there are no paths where they
The 16yaks, said Durus, softly, almost inaudibly. They must be
from Bangkasa . . .
Or from somewhere in the north,'he added after a while.
We stood silently watching this magic display. The lights
glowed and died, came close together, spread rapidly out in a
long line. Slowly they floated back once more to where I had
first seem them. One by one they went out, until only a single
light remained. But all at once it was gone. The valley was in
All next day I was haunted by the weird beauty of the scene I
had witnessed the night before. It was as if the stars had de-
scended. If it had not been for Durus and Sampih I should have
been unable to believe it had not been part of a dream. But
when I mentioned it to Chokorda Rahi, and later to the perbekel
in Pliatan, they were not surprised. Had I awoken out of an un-
easy sleep? With a feeling of suffocation? There was only one
explanation. Sorcery was in the air once more. It had only begun,
and no one knew what was to follow.
Though I watched the following night, and the night after,
the valley remained dark. Who could say when they might re-
turn? Perhaps that night, said Rendah, perhaps not for a week.
In a week I shall be gone, Rendah.
That's so, he answered. He stood there for a moment looking
at me. I had told him to dig up the flowers in the garden and
plant them at home, and now he knelt and began to turn up
the ground with his knife.
You will not come back this time, said Durus. I see it in your
eyes; I can tell it in your voice. You will never come back. He
let the lid of the trunk fall and snapped the key. Then he carried
the lamp across the room and set it on the table by the bed.
Look, he said. White ants have begun to bore through the
I did not answer. I stood in the doorway looking over the
valley. In the moonlight the mountains were now small and flat.
The river had become a brilliant stream, and the ricefields shone
as though covered with frost. From somewhere in the direction
of the sea came the sound of drums. We stood listening. All at
once the light dimmed. Clouds swept over the moon. A breeze
rose. There was a stir among the leaves, and over the house the
bamboos swayed and sighed.
But soon the breeze had fallen; once more the valley was
flooded with light. Down by the river a lamp began to shine.
Someone is fishing, said Durus.
Come, I said, let us go down and bathe. We went down the
hillside, to walk along the river's edge to the place where the
water formed a pool among the rocks. Each blade of grass, each
fern stood out in sharp relief in the moonlight. Each pebble
reflected white from the bottom of the pool. For a while we
swam in silence.
The lady in the moon, said Durus, looking up. Can you see
her? There she sits spinning, spinning. She may not stop . . .
Who is she? What is her name?
But he could not say. We dressed and slowly climbed the
hill once more. At the top the house stood bathed in light, quiet,
mysterious, as though it had already been deserted.
The night before I left I spent the evening with Lebah driving
along my favorite roads. The rainy season was at hand, but al-
though the day had been overcast, the sky was clear once more.
I stopped at Marga to watch a shadowplay, in Mengwi to look
for a while at an arja performance. Never did voices seem to
carry such pathos, gestures seem so beautiful in their grace and
fragility. At last I said to Lebah, We must turn back towards
home. As we passed through Mengwi we came to a blaze of
lights near the market. It was the new Stamboul company we
had seen a month before, and which I had found so deplorable,
but even now I felt I must stop to watch, if only for a moment.
The moonlight fell on a line of girls in short flowered dresses,
their faces powdered white as their cotton stockings and tennis
shoes, and they stood in line, gesticulating aimlessly, dancing
some strange step that seemed to have little to do with the mu-
sic. Back and forth they moved, nodding their heads, waving
their arms, singing the dreariest of tunes. They stopped; it was
time for the hero. A boy stepped out in sport shirt, white pants,
black smoked glasses. He was followed by a second in a coat of
gold brocade and soldier's hat. A strident dialogue began. Back
and forth the voices cried, harsh, furious, in fancied imitation of
important colonial officials.
It's handsome, isn't it? I said to Lebah.
But at this point he drew me by the arm. Come, he said, very
gently. It is time to go; it will soon be dawn.
That morning, as the car left Sayan, it began to rain. We
drove straight to the western tip of the island, where I was to
take the little steamer across the channel to Java. As we arrived
the rain stopped, but the sky was black, and the gulls sailed
through the air like bits of paper. Lebah carried the bags in
silence to the boat. He arranged them in careful order beside
the packages and little suitcases belonging to the Javanese and
Chinese passengers. After we had said good-by he stepped onto
the dock and stood watching a moment as the boat drew away.
Then I saw him turn and walk back to where the car was stand-
ing beneath the trees.
As the boat reached the middle of the channel the rain sud-
denly began once more. It fell in a heavy silver sheet, and in
a moment it had blotted out the island completely from view.
title of a prince or regent
small man; child
village ward or subdivision
a princely title
the great ten-day holiday which inevitably
lasts a month, taking place each thirty
commoner; peasant caste forming nine-
tenths of the population
sir; madame; polite form of address to a
Chinese hole-money; "cash"
government-appointed village headman
a sorcerer in supernatural form
village priest and temple guardian
government-appointed head man of 2 small
silver coin worth one dollar, normal cur-
gesture of reverence
leaf of the sirih-vine, a species of pepper
lord; sir; master; mister; (Malay)
kajar, kempli, klenang
archaic musical instrument of bamboo
orchestra of gongs, keyed instruments,
drums and cymbals, developed in Java and
spreading with Javanese culture
lit. metal; keyed instrument which plays or-
namental parts or basic melody
keyed instrument which plays the melody
bass g'nder which plays the pokok
Javanese for the scented flower of the chanv-
paka, used in offerings
"flower passages"; arabesque
to assemble; compose (music, picture, poem,
house compound; a musical composition;
painting; something composed or "put to-
"stalk" or "trunk"; the basic tones of the
ornamental parts played by four men on the
reyong, a kind of trompong
row of little gOngs on which solo melody is
played, used either in ceremonial music or
in the Gamelan of Semara
modern operetta based on traditional thea-
ter, with songs in old Javanese meters
music and dance of an official introducing
a higher character
lit. row; ancient warrior's drill-dance
beast mask, in the form of lion, tiger, boar
nurse or attendant of the heroine
women's ceremonial dance with offerings
ancient court theater
gandrung lit. love; a popular public dance performed
by a boy
jog6d lit. dance; the same performed by a girl
lgong dance derived from nandir, performed by
nandir ancient court dance performed by boys
rangda the Widow; the witch Chalonarang
topeng ancient play with masked actors
wayang old Javanese for shadow: theater, actor, pup-
wayang kulit puppet play
wayang wong play with humans
Three of the author's transcriptions for two pianos of Balinese gam-
elan music have been published by G. Schirmer of New York. Under
the title Balinese Ceremonial Music the same firm has recorded
an album of these transcriptions, which includes music from the
shadowplay, arja flute melodies and the ceremonial music which opens
a temple feast. A second album, which will include music from the
Gamelan of Semar the Love God and music played only during death
rites, is being planned.
Cakes, fruits and sweetmeats for the gods
nne rnrrv the bflSS
In the temple courtyard young girls perform the ceremonial rejang
The gangsas fill the air with ringing sound
The little legong dancers perform for the pleasure of both gods and mortals
G'nders play the melody for the legong dance
In the Temple of the Dead the women of Sayan dance before each shrine
Each afternoon for a week the young girls from twenty villages gathered to
dance at a harvest feast in Tabanan
The witch Chalonarang
The beloved but terrifying barong
The author's Gomelan of Semaro the Love God
The rapid "flower-parts" take much practice
Cymbals and little bells add shimmer to the music of Semara the Love God
The garden at the
house in Sayan
We kill a pig for
the galungan holiday
** -^ J *^*iifc.
^^^Hf^n, : -
A feast delicacy grilled sticks of turtle meat
Rantun the cook
Gusti Lanong Oka, a musician
The dolang opens his puppet-box
The guru, I Lunyuh
Lotring the composer was also famous for his subtle spicing of feast dishes
The dance comes to an end
Puppets of the shodowploy: the
princess Subadro and prince
Narrow eyes, a serene smile
mark the galak-amanis type,
the sweetly brave hero whose
speech is high-pitched and
whose gestures show restraint
.S *o - E
The Dutch School Supervisor often called the new Stomboul Club
to Den Pasar to perform for some visiting missionary
This is the story of a musician who lived, for five
years on the island of Bali studying its music, His
friends were scholars and dancers, priests and vil-
lage chiefs, actors, musicians and princes, 'With
music as the main theme of the book, he has woven
a lively account of his life from day to day in an
island of mysterious and friendly people.
From a musician's point of view Bali was indeed
an incredible paradise, where music and dancing
were not only loved by all, but played a most im-
portant part in the life of the people. Day and night
the air was vibrant with the golden, metallic sounds
of the garnelan the Balinese orchestra of gongs,
bronze-keyed instruments and drums as it played
for temple rites or village feast. The roots of this
music could be traced to the ancient courts of Java,
to still more ancient India and China- In Bali just
before the war, it had blossomed miraculously into
This is not a travel book. It is not an ethnographic
record. It is something rarer. For those to whom
sound makes sense this articulate and sensitive ac-
count of a unique adventure should ofJer an excit-
ing experience, a graceful and welcome counterpoint
to the contemporary emphases of a war- torn world.
The author has the unusual gift of being able to
translate his musical experience into --words and yet
in some way leave the music still hanging in the
air, to echo in the reader's ears. Entering another
society through the seeing eye and the hearing ear
of one who has had the patience to explore it for us
is always rewarding, doubly rewarding when the
society is Bali, caught just on the poignant edge of
its vanishing civilization.